Friday, July 20, 2007

Time Management

Time is the sparsest of all resources. Use it wisely. It’s not so much about
time management as it is about strategic management.

Management tends to focus on the issues of the day more often than on strategic
application. Each person in an executive team has areas that they are
accountable for and these demand attention. Operational issues rise to
the top and need attention. The squeaky wheel gets the oil. Strategic issues develop no fires, no
embarrassments, and no sudden breakdowns so
it’s never an attention grabber. Many companies don’t get to see that
they are missing strategic targets until the first quarter; even then
they may dismiss the results as a blip in the economy and wait for the
second quarter. It takes half the year to realize there is a problem.
It will probably take longer to get back on track. Which means another
year of underperformance? Can you afford it?

So how does your team schedule strategic meetings. Do you even schedule strategic
meetings? If you analyze where your top management teams time is spent,
you may be surprised to see what they spend it on. Executive and
management teams don’t need more than a few hours per month focusing on
strategic direction but it needs to be quality time and it needs to be

As with dialogue and discussion, strategic action needs
more decision making than discussion. Discussion leads to no further
understanding but rather a delay in decision making. Discussions around
areas that have already been strategically determined are
counterproductive and waste time. It was determined to be of strategic
importance when it was developed so let’s not refocus efforts in the
wrong areas. Focus rather on making decisions.

Make sure your strategy meetings are not hijacked by the most current fire that’s
being fought. Have another forum for operational meetings.

To ensure that you achieve the objectives of your strategy meeting:

1. Decide before the meeting which activities are valuable. This may be
the team leader’s job or can be done in a quick whip around e-mail each
manager assigning a point to each item.

2. Add a financial value to the ramifications of not doing anything. This will keep you focused on the important things.

3. Rapidly move items through the process of decision making. There is no
point in having older items take valuable strategic time from the
group. Avoid analysis paralysis and keep things moving forward.

4.Ensure there are alternatives available for the team to make. Just as
in a sales presentation give the members a choice of three things to
choose and let them understand the reasons behind their choices.

5. Develop a process for making strategic decisions. Let it be known and used to monitor and track outcomes.

6. Make sure that a decision once made is not reneged on by managers.

Ensuring that your strategic direction remains on track is important to an
Organization. Following the above guidelines can be achieved by
following the 'Best Year Yet' program.

Author- Graeme Nichol, MBA, principal Arcturus Advisors (,
has worked on 4 continents gaining experience through Big Six
consulting companies and boutique firms. Including; Business strategy,
project management, change management, systems thinking, developing
learning organizations, team development, productivity and quality
improvement, and large scale ERP implementations.

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