Managing Time Like MoneyI am facilitating a series of leadership development and organization effectiveness sessions for 200 middle managers and senior executives of a public sector organization. One of the key issues we’ve focused on is the growing “expectations gap”– customers/clients are expecting more services while paying the same or less taxes. Of course, this doing-more-with-less pressure is a universal factor pushing hard on every organization in almost every sector today.

One of our core workshop exercises is “Finding the Right Balance” between time spent solving technical problems or applying technical expertise (for which most managers were promoted and continue their career advancement), management systems, processes, data, analysis, planning (including interacting with screens such as through e-mail), and leadership activities such as face-to-face or verbal communications, coaching, team development, modeling vision and values, building personal connections, or inspiring action.

As with hundreds of other groups where we’ve used this exercise, the vast majority of participants want to spend less time on technical and management and much more time in leadership. As we discuss why they’re not leading as much as they’d like to, many start with pointing at external factors (my boss, floods of e-mail, meetings, administrative demands, and the like). We then force a deep look in the leadership mirror: what could I be doing to take back control of my time and shift my balance toward more leadership? This dramatically changes the conversation and moves participants toward leadership action.

This month’s issue of Harvard Business Review has an insightful article reporting on Bain & Company’s recent study of the time budgets of 17 large corporations. Your Scarcest Resource, starts with “time is money, but few organizations treat it that way.” The authors point out that most organizations have disciplined procedures for financial management but time goes largely unmanaged.

Three problems identified in the study are “Companies are awash in e-communications,” “Meeting time has skyrocketed,” and “Dysfunctional meeting behavior is on the rise.” In our sessions we discuss the enormous time lost to these three areas and how to reverse this huge resource drain.

Time is a more scarce resource than money. If organizations budgeted and reported on their use of time the same as their finances we’d be spending our time a lot differently.

Further Reading:

• “Five Steps to Making Time for the Work That Matters
• “Measuring the E-mail Beast
• “Taming the E-Mail Beast
• “Thoughts That Make You Go Hmmm….on Meeting Effectiveness
• A series of blogs on The Acceleration Trap, slowing down to speed up, stop doing lists, and the like at Goals and Priorities