While we are revisiting the issues raised by my (newly revised) book, Extending the Runway, we should examine the challenges to a CEO in making use of enterprise time, one of its most valuable and often misused assets. Enterprise time, as opposed to personal time management, is defined as the sum total of resources available to a company expressed in terms of time – time to develop, to debug, to produce, to deploy, to respond to issues, and to make changes in plans that are not working.
Extending the Runway book available at www.berkus.com
By reducing the amount of time to perform any of these actions, the company saves fixed overhead and increases profit or reduces cash burn. So this issue becomes one to be dealt with by every manager at every level of the organization. Building efficiency into every corporate activity should be a corporate mandate, one to be discussed interdepartmentally, to be refereed by the CEO.
[Email readers, continue here…] There is the flip side to making efficient use of time. I’ve labeled this time bankruptcy to make the point as dramatically as possible that this is a critical, company-threatening sinkhole that must be avoided at all costs.
Time bankruptcy is the ultimate result of the deliberate over-commitment of a company’s most valuable resource(s) by the CEO or a department leader. There are many ways to fall into this trap. But the first thing to do is to identify what those critical resources are in your company. Most often it is the time of the chief architect of the product or service you provide, or of the best developers of that product. Sometimes it is the time of the CEO, which when overcommitted, prevents others from gaining access to solve critical problems or continue the flow of production.
One way to fall into the time bankruptcy trap is to release a product too early, and pay the price by forcing the architect and most skilled developers to drop off of their important tasks to put out fires in the field and fix problems one at a time.
Another is to fail to complete a contracted service for one customer and to do so multiple times, until many customers begin screaming for attention, drawing away all available talent from new, income earning tasks.
You will surely be able to identify an example of time bankruptcy that you have experienced in your past or present. It is your job to drive the company out of the time bankruptcy zone and to watch for signs of it occurring in the future, stopping the process before it becomes critical. That means watching quality control efforts more carefully, developing metrics to track incomplete processes and track remaining time committed to completion, watching the number of customers exposed to a new product or service before general release, and more.
It also means being careful that you, as a senior manager, do not become overloaded to the extent that you are unavailable or inefficient in helping those who need your attention to complete their tasks. Use the term, time bankruptcy, in a planning session, and see what response you get from your managers and employees. You’ll be surprised at their understanding of the issue as it relates to their being able to complete their tasks successfully and of their contributions to solutions that will benefit everyone and increase process efficiencies.
Finally, enterprise time equates to available runway, or remaining cash and resources that you can call upon to gain market share and increase corporate value. Spending enterprise time inefficiently burns those resources unnecessarily. If you have enough reserves in cash and in time, you can dig out of the hole. But if you are managing a marginal business, the effective use of time as a resource extends your ability to make changes, reposition, react and build.
So if you wonder why we focus on this subject to the extent of seeming redundant, well then, it’s about time.