How Smart Leaders Talk About Time
How do you talk about time? Time is like money. We invest both time and money. We spend both time and money. We should (although most do neither) budget time and money. We waste both time and money. The only difference between them is that I can always get more money, but once time is wasted, it cannot be recovered.
I found an interesting post last week on the Harvard Business blogs by Luca Baiguini titled How Smart Leaders Talk About Time. Luca is a Professor of Organizational Behavior and Personal Development in Italy. Of course since lean is about performance and process, time is one of the major variables. You can read the post here, but the two recommendations are:
- Establish a shared language that distinguishes between “pressure on time” and “impact on goals” factors.
- Reduce those activities that, despite being important, must be performed under pressure.
I agree fully with these two points. I also think there is something else that lean-thinking leaders can do. Most organizational systems only stop and check for lateness and progress at milestones and deadlines. This means that if there a problem or barrier with the task, that problem is only surfaced as the deadline is passing or afterwards. That means that we can’t really fix it and “rushing” is now entered into the equation as the quick countermeasure.
Andon is of course such a method for raising problems as they occur, and I wrote about andon here. 5S is also a tool that most people think is for cleaning things up, but it is really about spotting problems quickly. Of course none of this works unless you have a culture that values surfacing problems quickly and engaging in and solving seemingly small problems before they become big problems.
If we design our work and our management systems so that we are aware of problems while they are still small, as they occur, and at the point of activity, we can take action before it’s too late. This can ensure that less work is rushed because we aren’t already behind in time compared to the milestone or deadline.
What do you think about Luca’s points or mine? How do you talk about time?