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Eight cures for your costly time-management ills


By Ken Tysiac

Poor time management is a huge drain on company assets, with top executives, as well as lower-level employees, spending many hours responding to email and attending unproductive meetings.

Indeed, senior executives devote more than two days each week to meetings with three or more co-workers, and executives receive more than 30,000 external communications a year, up from 1,000 in the 1970s, according to research conducted by global business consulting firm Bain & Co. and enterprise analytics company VoloMetrix.

Bain teamed with VoloMetrix to examine the time budgets of 17 large corporations. The research revealed big productivity losses related to time management that would be unacceptable in other areas of a business, but they continue because companies do not track and monitor employees’ time as tightly as they track other resources, such as capital.

“If time really was money, and accounted for in the same way, many companies would be running huge deficits,” Greg Caimi, a Bain partner who co-authored the time-management study, said in a news release.

The eight costly sins of poor time management, according to the report, are:

  • Muddled company-wide agendas. Agendas should be made clear and objective so everyone at the company knows how to use extra time and which tasks can be shelved.
  • A “time is free” approach to scheduling. Organisational time should be managed as rigourously as capital assets are.
  • A “let’s start a project” mindset. Requiring a business case for any new project can avoid expenditure of needless time.
  • A thickening middle. Simplifying the organisation can save time, the report says, because having more managers and more layers creates more work for others.
  • An “anyone can schedule” approach. Creating a line of authority for who can call and schedule meetings can decrease time spent unnecessarily in meetings.
  • Decision-making or decision-murky? Decision-making can be streamlined and managed by standardising the decision-making process.
  • A “meeting time is free time” attitude. Requiring clear agendas, advance preparation, and on-time results can ensure maximum production at meetings.
  • “Where did the time go?” Meeting time, attendance, and email volume should be tracked to assess productivity.

“Most time-management advice focuses on individual actions – be choosy with meetings, rein in your email box,” Michael Mankins, the leader of Bain’s organisation practice in the Americas, said in a news release. “But this advice sometimes goes against your company’s culture: Ignore emails and meeting invitations and you risk alienating your colleagues – or your boss. Innovative companies are fostering cultures where time is treated as a scarce resource and invested as prudently as capital.”

Ken Tysiac (ktysiac@aicpa.org) is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.

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