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Time Lapse

Optimize Blog - May 2, 2016 - 0 comments

In our experience too many leadership teams squander the most precious resource that they have – time.
Although time is the scarcest resource in any company (not even the wealthiest companies can buy an extra minute over and above the 1440 we are granted each day) the harsh reality is that few leadership and executive teams manage their time well. Research suggest that the typical company’s senior team spends less than three days each month working together as a team and they only spend around three hours each month on strategic issues…
The price of this wasted or misallocated time is high and includes frustration experienced by employees, delayed or fractured strategic decisions, overlooked waste and poor cost management, missed new product opportunities, poor long term investments and misaligned views on key issues. So, a very real constraint on the financial performance of any company is the leadership’s capacity to reach good decisions quickly. Clearly poor decisions made in haste will lead to actions that destroy value but decisions made too slowly can hinder company performance as well. The reality is that few companies manage leadership time in a disciplined or systematic way. Too much time is spent discussing issues that have little or no direct impact on company value.
In many instances research shows that as much as 80% of leadership team’s time is devoted to issues that account for less than 20% of a company’s long term value – Pareto at work once again. But all is not lost and this can be fixed IF the following techniques are adopted:
Deal with Operations separately from Strategy. These two elements are distinct activities requiring a different approach and even mindset. If separate meetings are held it prevents day to day operational issues from dominating the agenda and consequently frees up time for generative thinking about the strategic challenges facing the organization.
Measure the real, tangible value of each item on the leadership team agenda. Agenda items are rarely, if ever, identified this explicitly and therefore the team risks spending time on trivial or unimportant discussions. Each item should be prioritized based on the potential value at stake – the value to be gained, or to be lost….
Adopt a formal decision-making process and framework. The framework should enhance the decision making capability without sacrificing the quality of the outcome. Barclays adopted a process for strategic decision making by introducing three tests for each decision – each must be fact based, alternatives driven and consequential. In essence the decisions needed to have facts presented with a minimum of three alternatives to be considered and once a decision has been made it must be embedded into the operating plans of the organization.
Focus on decisions not the discussions. Too often leadership team meetings are used to discuss at length the data in front of the team and often at the expense of actually coming to any decision at all. Being ruthless in preparation for these meetings is key. Background materials and all relevant data should be shared perhaps up to five days before the meeting so that the discussion within the meeting itself focuses on coming to the right decision rather than long winded debates whilst poring over the information. Well prepared leadership teams utilize their time effectively in spending their time coming to a good decision.
Finally the company has to be able to make decisions stick – the decisions made being translated into tangible actions that get delivered. This of course includes the ability for the leadership team to remain aligned and to avoid the silo mentally too often present.
Ultimately if we recognized that time was our most precious resource and treated each of the 1440 minutes in the day as jewels that cannot be retrieved once lost, we would stand a far better chance of being effective and creating value for our organization…….

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