When working with change and continuous improvement, there is a strong desire to eliminate waste. Waste could be space, the number of steps in a procedure or whatever doesn’t create value seen from the customers’ perspective. Time can also be waste – especially if things are delayed or sitting idle in the backlog somewhere, or just slower than they need to be.
I happen to believe in speed. I think speed is a virtue in its own right, at least in business. Keeping up the momentum makes sure that we focus on what matters. Speed automatically helps prioritize what actually needs to get done.
A wise person once said that “you don’t need time, you need deadlines”. I think that is right.
We are doing a large transformation at Kredinor. In my experience, there is almost a choice between working very hard for a short time and working equally hard for a longer time. If an ambitious deadline is set, the response is focus and attention to what matters. If there is less ambition, the workload doesn’t really end up being a lot easier. You just work very hard for a longer time to end up in the same place.
In 2010 I was the CFO of a company that was running at full speed towards a listing on the Oslo Stock Exchange. I started in my new role as CFO on the 20th of May. On my first day, I met with investment bankers, lawyers, auditors, and advisors. The message from our owners was that the listing was to happen on the 20th of October, and “delay is not an option”. It was a very tight process, especially given where we were as a company and the amount of work ahead of us. Despite the workload, the interdependencies and the obstacles, we delivered, unfortunately two days late, on the 22nd of October, but we were forgiven.
In many organizations, activity becomes synonymous with progress. Being busy is a sign of success. That’s why time is important. If we want to achieve real progress, leaders need to set a clear target with a clear deadline. The simple truth is that an ambitious date will most likely give you almost the same, but with less resource use.
I started out by asking if time is something you receive or something you consume. If you believe that time is something that will come to you, the sense of urgency might be less, as there will always be more time tomorrow.
However, in our race to deliver and finish things in time, something might also be lost. We must remember to be present, take a break and reflect on our surroundings and the people we love.
Probably, the truth is somewhere in the middle, that one perspective shouldn’t rule out the other. Sometimes we need to create a sense of urgency by regarding time as something we consume. Other times, we should focus on the time we receive, be present and enjoy the here and now. As in so many other things, we need to find a balance.