Posts Tagged ‘time management’

Misleading Matters

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

I was having a lovely email exchange with a person yesterday who has recently moved into learning and development management. She was explaining how she now needed to be more strategic, she has real plans for her company and she was so passionate about what she wanted to achieve. It was an inspiring exchange!

It started me thinking about if I was in such a position again. If I wanted to develop a culture that was as performance focused as possible and able to demonstrate how it added quantifiable value to the organisation, what are the words or phrases that would most hinder that culture shift, and what would I seek to replace them with? How could I demonstrate clarity of direction? Here are my top five:

Training Manager – that would be the first one to go. For me, the title signifies that the post-holder is purely focussed on what happens whilst a delegate is attending a course or undertaking an e-learning package. I’d want to be the Learning and Development Manager – or even the Performance Improvement Manager – thus signifying that I have a proactive interest in engaging with the managers and delegates pre and post event, and ascertaining the value of our contribution.

Abstraction – So often I used to be told at meetings that training was an abstraction, and the person making the judgment argued they couldn’t afford such an abstraction (in some companies the word ‘overhead’ is also used). I would immediately retort – sometimes interrupting the person, especially if they didn’t get the message the first time – that the learning and development that I managed and delivered was an investment (not an abstraction). If people get used to referring to your activities as an abstraction, the activities have the potential to become so. Take the opportunity to change the culture and make people think differently about what you are doing.  Eventually others will call it an investment, and then you know the culture can change and you will be viewed very differently.

Time Management Course – Why advertise that you are going to do something that is clearly impossible? Sailors don’t claim to manage the tides, and weather reporters don’t claim to manage the weather – we may wonder what planet they were coming from if they did. So what reasons do trainers and training managers have for claiming they can help people manage time?  We know what the tides will do, and can see and feel (and predict to some degree) the weather, so we manage ourselves accordingly. The same goes for time. Call such events Task Management or Task Prioritisation Courses – you will be surprised how differently people think about the event from the outset, because you are being clear about what will be achieved. Have a look at all your offerings – do they really do what they say on the tin?

Problem Person – I have often been faced with someone seeking assistance as they have a ‘Problem Person’ to deal with.  I bet Carl Rogers turns in his grave every time he hears this. If people are viewed in this way, they will potentially always be a problem. Such an individual is a person. A person who has a problem – a problem which you may well be able to assist them with. Where the manager thinks they have a ‘Problem Person’ they will more than likely become one.

Can you organise a (whatever) skills course, please? – The answer to this is ‘No’ – well not on this information, anyway. Operational managers are busy people and also may not be aware of all the ways that development needs can be met. You need to find out more – a lot more … how was the need identified, how many people does it apply to, how do we know it applies to all of them, why do all of them need it, what opportunities will there be for all these people to use the new skill, and so on. Get to the heart of the matter. You will receive so many ill-defined needs – and asking these questions (and others) will help generate a performance improvement partnership between your function and the rest of the organisation. And if you don’t ask the questions, and the learning and development intervention doesn’t work, the operational manager will make it public as to whose fault they think it is – and that will not do your culture shift (or reputation) much good!

So those are my top five – are there any that you would add?


Organisational maturity

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

As we leave September and the nights grow longer here in the UK, many organisations are awaiting the Spending Review due to be published on 20 October. I was at a Business Link event last week and this was one of the main topics of conversations. There is understandably much concern and trepidation around due to the potential impact of the spending cuts.

As you will have seen from the news, many public sector organisations are already starting to make cuts in spending and people resources due to their reduction in finances. Many private sector organisations have been undertaking this for some months already.

So what are you doing to start working more efficiently and effectively? We will need to do this in order to soften the blow of any cuts. I also believe that we all have a responsibility to do this. And don’t underestimate how much you can save. A 2007 survey by the Proudfoot Consulting (Guardian 22 October 2007) covering 2,500 businesses over four years and across 38 countries, demonstrated that the cost of wasted time to UK businesses is £80bn per year, equivalent to 7% of its Gross Domestic Product. The ‘worst offender’ causes of inefficiency were found to be:

  • Inadequate workforce supervision (31%)
  • Poor management planning (30%)
  • Poor communication (18%)
  • IT problems, low morale, and lack or mismatch of skills (21%)

Recently I delivered a Leadership and Management Programme within an organisation. It took place on a number of days over a period of 4 months. It was great fun and I was a little sad when it ended as I had developed some lovely relationships with many of the very keen and talented delegates.

At the end of the Programme, the delegates delivered presentations as to what they had learning and, most importantly, how it was making a difference in their workplaces. Where possible, I assisted them to convert their achievements into cash or efficiency savings.  

One person explained how they had stopped staff from coming to the line managers and asking questions (unless business critical) and as an alternative the managers held ‘surgeries’ for such questions three times a day. This saved on the time of all concerned and allowed for more uninterrupted work. A by-product of this was that staff then started to sort out their own minor problems, thus saving even more time. Over the period of a year, based on the finding of the first month, they were due to make over £15,000 of efficiency savings due to the time they were saving.

One saving I have always been keen to make is through not having ‘Any Other Business’ on meeting agendas. If you have 10 people attending a meeting, and all work for £16 per hour (including on-costs), every 15 minutes of the meeting costs the organisation 2.5 hours staff time or £40. By cutting the AOB section, it means that people have to plan more effectively for what they want in the meeting, other delegates can plan for the item and the Chair can make the meeting more focussed.

And all these activities have knock-on effects that can help to develop a more mature organisational culture. The surgeries example has led to staff sorting out their own issues and therefore thinking for themselves more effectively, which will create a more Adult and self-sufficient environment. Losing the AOB means that staff start to plan more effectively, and this skill will then be transferred elsewhere. So, the increased efficiency leads to increased effectiveness.

So, as I said earlier, what are you doing to work more efficiently and effectively? Or, more pointedly, what changes will you introduce this week?

Please let me know – I’d be really interested to hear other ideas.


Be clear about what you can actually manage

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

I was reading some posts on a Forum at the weekend relating to a person wanting some ideas for running a ‘Time Management Course’. I’m sure that you will have seen such events advertised. You may even have attended one yourself. The one thing that you will not have learned on the course is how to manage time.

Do sailors and mariners attend Tide Management courses? I don’t think so. I’m aware that King Canute piloted such a course back in the eleventh Century, but it turned out to be a bit of a non starter. He quickly realised that he was struggling to achieve the stated objectives and delegate feedback wouldn’t be good. There are certainly none that I can find on the internet. That’s probably because everyone knows that it’s not possible to manage the tide – you have to work within around High and Low tides.

I have been in cars many times when it has been getting dark and the driver – whether it has been me or someone else – has turned the lights on. As I turn the lights on, I don’t think to myself, “Oh, I’ll just manage the sunset”, I think (something like), “Oh, it’s getting dark”.

As a slight aside to that, who thought it would be a good idea to teach children about the sun rising and the sun setting? And then just when they understand that – or they think they understand it – teach  them that actually the sun stays exactly where it is – it’s us that moves …

Anyway, back to time management … So why do we talk about time management?

Not only is it an impossible task, it actually detracts from what anyone attending such a learning event is probably intending to address. If the event was called something like “Effective Task Management”, then this would more accurately summarise what the event is all about. And – more importantly – it would keep the learner focused on what they should really be seeking to achieve.  

The clearer we are with communication, the more we can achieve.