mercoledì 5 settembre 2012

Tips on Time Management

Tips on Time Management

I started to have a real managerial job in 1968 when I became the Regional Director of the Italian sales office for Motorola (with some 12 people). Since then my carreer exposed me to growing managerial responsibilities in terms of resources under my responsibility.
The resources under managerial responsibility of any manager are always of 3 kind:

  • Human resources
  • Financial resources
  • Physical resources (equipment, buildings, materials, inventories..)

The dimension of the resources under management varies immensely with the scope and the size of the managerial responsibility.
There is however a 4th resource that is basically equal for all managers and all jobs: this is the TIME. Every manager has available only 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year: no matter the dimension of the job (from a manager with no employees under him to the CEO of a 50Billion Corporation) this is the only time with which he can play: his choice is only on how much he will allocate to personal/physical needs (sleeping, eating, igienic needs, health needs), to social activities (family in first priority, friends, social activities, sport and leasure activities) and finally to hours dedicated to the work (hours spent in the office, or in external meetings with various stakeholders of the Company, working at home, working on the phone, business travel..).

My personal experience of about 35 years of managerial responsibility, and my observation of other managers, and finally the business literature, has taught me that a good dedicated manager is always hard working and puts on the job at least 2500 hours a year (50 hours a week for 50 weeks a year) and more frequently 3000 hours a year (60 hours a week for 50 weeks a year). In my case my overall time dedicated to the job has always been at the least 3000 hours a year including the time of business travel. In exceptional periods (like the first year of the turnaround of SGS and first year after the formation of ST) my yearly time dedicated to the job has gone over the 4000 hours a year (which means 80 hours a week for 50 weeks, and more likely 52 weeks a year).

In any case, my belief is that between 2500 and 3000 hours a year is a good norm for a dedicated manager: more than that risks to bring the manager to an imbalanced life and to be less effective overall in his job. A manager, must also be a balanced person with a good contact with the world outside the Company, and if he has family, must dedicate adequate time to his family both for the moral health of the family and his own.
The important issue is how to use effectively the time allocated to the Work: at the end it is less relevant how many hours a manager works, but it is extremely important what is the output of his managerial work.

From the literature and from my own experience, I have learned that a manager should apply a few rules to manage effectively his time (which I repeat should be in the range of 2500 to 3000 hours a year, including business travel time) and to get the maximum output.
  1. PRIORITIZE. A manager must do every day the most important things first and do not spend time on the many irrelevant issues that show up every day.
  2. DELEGATE. A manager must learn to delegate to the people that have a given responsibility the actions that are in their charter of ownwership. Delegation and control is the best way to allocate properly the duties in the organization and to grow managerially the people under him. A manager must resist the temptation to do himself the job of his subordinates, except in a few cases where his help is mandatory and/or he wants to teach how to do.
  3. TREAT A SUBJECT ONLY ONCE. Many times a manager has a duty to accomplish that he does not like or he does not feel comfortable to do and spends time in the issue, but then puts it on pending and goes back to it several times in different days before completing the task. At the end he/she will havespent on that task much more time than really necessary and will not execute it on time.
  4. MEETINGS. Meetings are the way of life in any organization. They are necessary to get all the inputs for a given decision, to get everybody aware of what they should know, to have all relevant people reading the same sheet of music. But meetings tend to be very time consuming for the manager and for various parts of the organization. An effective way to manage a meeting includes to limit the participation to the relevant people, to have a clear agenda, to expect every participant to be prepared to the items in the agenda and finally to conduct the meetings in very strict adherence to the agenda and without allowing random discussions or long interventions that most of the time are absolutely unnecessary.
  5. TELEPHONE CONVERSATIONS. Today a relevant part of the business activity is done on the phone with colleagues, customers, and any third party. This is absolutely necessary. But telephone conversations should be short, limited to the points to be discussed and last few minutes: many times the conversations are unnecessarily long and deviate in various subjects not related to the initial purpose of the call.Learning how to cut the number of meetings and of phone calls and the duration of the meetings and the calls is the most effective tool for time management.
  6. BUSINESS LUNCHES AND DINNERS. This is the most frequent way of poor time management. The business activity requires many of those encounters with customers, partners, investors and his own people. They are absolutely necessary, but there is a tendency to do far too many even when it is not necessary, and when the manager participation is not mandatory. Cutting on business lunches and dinners is the easyest way to cut unnecessary time spent for supposed work. (I have been and still I am particularly poor on this respect).

The above few rules are very useful to optimize the effective use of time at work, resulting in more efficiency and personal balance. I know that is easy to say and difficult to implement.

But at least it is useful to keep them in mind and try to see if they work.