Productivity Improvement

Time Management

The multiplier effect of good time management

Many managers have to find ways to improve their own time management skills / techniques and have refined their working habits so they function more effectively. They've sharpened their skills, techniques and disciplines and can now focus on what counts most. They've learned to cope with interruptions, changing conditions, and the demands placed on them by others.

But even more important, some of these managers have shared the techniques with others, particularly the people reporting to them. Active guidance of their people in group meetings and one-on-one counseling sessions has produced mutual understanding of the best methods for effective time use and has led to improved productivity, minimal frustration, and increased job satisfaction for all.

This makes so much obvious sense that it's hard to believe that there are managers who neglect this participatory approach. But some managers are their own worst enemies. They make the incorrect assumption that their time-effective work habits will be clear to all and over time will be adopted by the supervisors reporting to them, the group as a whole, and other people and groups in the organization.

But the reality is that such an occurrence is not automatic. Further, these managers' behavior may be misconstrued and these managers may be seen as curt or abrasive. The attendant resentment may adversely affect work routine and productivity.

The impact of managerial actions

It's often difficult for a manager to recognize the impact that his or her actions have on others. Managers usually function with positive and constructive intent. But methodology and timing are crucial; if one or the other is inappropriate, a manager's actions can be perceived as and become real obstacles to achievement.

Where a manager functions in a counterproductive manner with subordinate management, the subordinate managers not only may be diverted from what's important but also may transmit changed direction to their own subordinates.

As a result, a negative multiplication may take place. The way to avoid the trap is also the way to achieve a positive multiplication.

What's needed?

  • First is a realization that some actions may not be productive;
  • then an inventory of time wasting habits should be taken and ways to overcome them should be identified;
  • finally, these new time-effective behaviors should be shared with the entire organization.
What one study revealed

Some years ago and over a period of a year, 250 first and second-line supervisors participating in management development seminars were surveyed. These managers were asked to identify three things higher management did that wasted their time.

From the categorized complaints, it was illuminating to see how the actions of higher management, despite positive intentions, were perceived as or became real obstacles to accomplishment. Here is how the complaints stacked up, in order of frequency of response:

  • The boss stops by to socialize, interrupting priority work.
  • Everything that comes up must be done 'right now.'
  • Meetings are called that are unnecessary, are called for which my presence isn't needed although I am requested to attend, or go off track and take longer than necessary.
  • Priorities are changed in midstream.
  • The boss isn't available when really needed.
  • The boss gives assignments to my people without my knowledge.
  • My boss gives me assignments that are someone else?s responsibility.
  • Assignments are unclear; I'm given incomplete instructions, requirements, or information.
  • Projects are given unrealistic timetables.
  • I'm not given the authority to make decisions-my boss must O.K. everything.
  • My boss insists that I personally handle work assignments that my subordinates could do without much direction from me.
  • My boss keeps looking over my shoulder to see what I'm doing.
  • My boss wants minute detail on minor matters, ignoring or withholding action on more important ones.
  • My boss procrastinates in making decisions; there are continuing discussions, reviews, and requests for advice.
  • My boss reverses decisions.

These were the major complaints of first- and second-line supervisors from almost 200 organizations. Imagine the time lost and the accompanying increase in costs involved. Imagine, too, the impact of these actions if practiced by other managers in the same organizations and untold numbers of managers in thousands of other organizations. The negative multiplication effect is enormous.

Wasted time

Needless to say, time management problems and poor work habits can be found at all levels, although the survey focused on the higher levels of management. There's no doubt that with awareness and self-discipline most managers at any level could improve their time use effectiveness by 20 percent.

For a manager at the $60,000 level, that's $12,000 worth of increased accomplishment. But that's only the tip of the iceberg because that manager affects the time use and productivity of those reporting to him or her, as well as possibly suffering from misdirection himself or herself from above. This misdirection could represent another 20 percent of misused time or $10,000 in the case of our $50,000 manager.

Let's assume that our $50,000 manager has four lower-level managers under his or her supervision. If that manager's actions have a negative impact on 20 percent of the time use of these managers who average $30,000 a year, that's another $24,000 worth of time wasted that can never be recovered.

In addition, these managers misuse 20 percent of their own time, or another $24,000. Further, it's likely the habits of these four managers will influence the productivity of their line employees.

Assume they each direct five subordinates averaging $15,000 annually. A 20 percent misdirection means another $60,000. Given an additional 20 percent waste due to their own misuse of time, we are now at $120,000.1f we add two secretaries to this hypothetical operation, at $14,000 each year, 20 percent of their time lost represents another $5,600. With their own time waste, the figure grows to $11,200. That makes a total of $207,200. No small change!

That's the equivalent of almost 14 people, at an average annual salary of $15,000, doing absolutely nothing for a full year!

Sound farfetched? Hardly. Actually, it's probably a conservative picture.

Apply that multiplication to your own operation and calculate the cost. The figure will be more than sobering . And that doesn?t even calculate the effect on other parts of the organization through things not done or delayed. Multiply the direct cost of our example (or your own) and the expensive, irretrievable loss of time and productivity is staggering, even frightening.

A positive multiplication

How much more productive it would be to take those same time-cost figures, make them positive, and go through the same multiplication. It can be done, but the process isn?t just arithmetic. It means setting in motion the machinery to:

  • Make each person aware of his or her own time use and provide the skills and techniques for effective time management.
  • Have each person share time management techniques with peers and subordinates and, it appropriate, supervisors.
  • Institute direct and combined efforts among operations to identify interactive time-wasters and work toward their elimination. In short, team up for effective time use. That?s the positive multiplication, and the most important and neglected part of time management.
  • Use groupware information technology on your computer network and make sure everyone uses it.

If these objectives are to be met, the effort must extend beyond an individual reading about good time management, even attendance at some seminar on the subject. The effort must be within the entire organization and among groups of people from all levels within the same operation, interdependent operations, or completely separate operations. Management groups on the same or different levels should work together on time problems, as well as superior-subordinate management teams and manager-employee teams.

Identifying objectives, priorities, and the best means to reach them often results in surprises, and the differences in perceptions must be recognized, faced, and resolved. Mutual exploration of time-wasting activities, their impact on others, and agreement on their reduction are essential steps. Such a concerted attack will make a 20 percent improvement in accomplishment, cost savings, satisfaction, and reduced stress seem conservative.

The positive multiplier effect needs people working together to team up on time. The result is a synergistic effect - two times two can equal five.

Time management is a subject covered in one of the modules in our guide personal effectivenss.

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