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Are You Wasting Valuable Time?

Aug 17, 2007
Time is the sparsest of all resources. Use it wisely. It is not so much about time management as it is about strategic management.

Management tends to focus on the issues of the day more often than on strategic application. Each person in an executive team has areas that they are accountable for and these demand attention. Operational issues rise to the top and need attention. The squeaky wheel gets the oil. Strategic issues develop no fires, no embarrassments, and no sudden breakdowns so it is never an attention grabber. Many companies do not get to see that they are missing strategic targets until the first quarter. Even then they may dismiss the results as a blip in the economy and wait for the second quarter. It takes half the year to realize there is a problem. It will probably take longer to get back on track. Which means another year of under performance? Can you afford it?

So how does your team schedule strategic meetings. Do you even schedule strategic meetings? If you analyze where your top management teams time is spent, you may be surprised to see what they spend it on. Executive and management teams dont need more than a few hours per month focusing on strategic direction but it needs to be quality time and it needs to be focused.

As with dialog and discussion, strategic action needs more decision making than discussion. Discussion leads to no further understanding but rather a delay in decision making. Discussions around areas that have already been strategically determined are counterproductive and waste time. It was determined to be of strategic importance when it was developed so let us not refocus efforts in the wrong areas. Focus rather on making decisions.

Make sure your strategy meetings are not hijacked by the most current fire that is being fought. Have another forum for operational meetings.

To ensure that you achieve the objectives of your strategy meeting:

1.Decide before the meeting which activities are valuable. This may be the team leaders job or can be done in a quick whip around e-mail each manager assigning a point to each item.

2.Add a financial value to the ramifications of not doing anything. This will keep you focused on the important things.

3.Rapidly move items through the process of decision making. There is no point in having older items take valuable strategic time from the group. Avoid analysis paralysis and keep things moving forward.

4.Ensure there are alternatives available for the team to make. Just as in a sales presentation give the members a choice of three things to choose and let them understand the reasons behind their choices.

5.Develop a process for making strategic decisions. Let it be known and used to monitor and track outcomes.

6.Make sure that a decision once made is not reneged on by managers.

Ensuring that your strategic direction remains on track is important to an Organization. Following the above guidelines can be a simple start to your success.

For more information on time management read Stop Wasting Valuable Time by Michael C. Mankins, HBR September 2004 pp27 to 35. Read it to gain further insights.
About the Author
By Graeme Nichol President of Arcturus Advisors. Please visit their website at http://www.arcturusadvisors.com. Arcturus Advisors works with business leaders to close the gap between great strategies and mediocre results. We use a process to get businesses to focus on a shared vision and agree on how to achieve results that far exceed individual contribution.
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