Time is an illusion. And an obsession. And apparently time is endangered because everyone is trying to save time, find more time, use time more wisely, or just plain stop time.
Time is of the essence, after all. And in the wonderful world of business, it always seems that we’re trying to find ways that let us move faster. We want to reduce the time it takes us to do what we do, whether it’s responding to customers, making decisions, adjusting to market trends, or getting the latest-greatest whatever-it-is to market.
You can’t reduce an illusion, but you can find ways to be more effective and make better use of the time you have.
That’s a tough number to hear from the employee side of that equation. Maybe I spend time with the wrong crowd, but I don’t know too many people who consider their performance to be only 80% of their potential. So where does that additional 20% come from? Is it an illusion too?
It’s not an illusion. But it’s also not hiding under the desks of individual employees.
More than Individual Performance
Delivering higher performance – and maintaining or improving quality at the same time -- means stepping back from individual employees and looking at how they work together. CEB’s research shows that employees collaborate with at least 10 individuals in their day-to-day work. The answer to higher performance is in the collaborative performance of employees.
Think generally about the things that make projects take longer. Where are the stall points? You may be waiting for others on the team to deliver their pieces, or they may need what you’ve completed so they can take the next steps. Or you’ve reached a point that requires the team to collectively make decisions, even if people involved are on opposite sides of the continent. Or planet.
If it’s easier for you to communicate with each other, you can move faster. If everyone has access to the same project information when and where they need it, there’s no delay while James is on vacation. And at those decision points, if you can meet live and in person (whether in the same room or via video), you can usually cover more details and move forward more quickly.
More than New Tools
There’s more to improving collaboration than throwing more tools at processes and expecting people to automatically kick into higher gear. That would be much like expecting someone to drive a manual transmission for the first time – and win a race.
Part of the productivity-improvement equation is to identify new approaches to collaboration and information management. But strangely forgotten or minimalized is the cultural aspect. It’s not just training and support for new tools, but managing the change to new processes and ways of working. You need to help people understand the reasons and benefits for a change. And you need to give them a path to help them adapt.
Keep in mind that the more persistent change is in your organization, the more difficult it is for employees to adapt. If change seems constant in your environment, nothing ever sits still long enough to master or become familiar. If people never get stable on their feet, they’re generally not ready to take another new step – especially in a different direction. More confusion equals lower productivity and engagement, all of which can make those great new approaches backfire.
And, it creates an environment in which people are likely more wary of “the next great thing” actually being great.
So, from a leadership perspective, it’s important not just to find the opportunities for change and the technology to implement to achieve that change – but to remember that collaboration is all about people. Convince employees that this brave new approach isn’t just shiny and new, but it will improve their individual and collective performance. And that the effort to change is worth it.
You may want more productivity from your employees, but your employees also want something from the deal. They want to know that you actually understand what they do and that you’re helping them be more effective. Demonstrate that understanding and you’ll not only get higher productivity, but better employee engagement – and that’s an additional box of benefits.
Einstein is only one of the great minds with great insight on time. For your entertainment, a few more:
“How did it get so late so soon? It's night before it's afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?” ―Dr. Seuss
“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” ―William Penn
“Aside from velcro, time is the most mysterious substance in the universe. You can't see it or touch it, yet a plumber can charge you upwards of $75 per hour for it, without necessarily fixing anything.” ―Dave Barry
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