“Time Flows Away Like the Water in the River.” This is a quote from Confucius. Here’s another one I like from Harvey Mackay, “Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.” Time is our most precious currency. Often it is called our most valuable “resource.” I prefer currency. Calling it currency gives it a monetary value. If time is our most precious currency, then why are we not treating it that way, and using the language of value when we talk about the way we spend it? How do you value your time?If time is our most precious currency, then why are we not treating it that way, and using the language of value when we talk about the way we spend it? – @GamingPaul? #leadership #business Click To Tweet
We spend time each day on activities, doing things. We often don’t know where we spent it, there’s too little visibility. We often don’t know if we spent it wisely, as we often don’t measure how well it was spent. Did it achieve the outcomes we had hoped for by spending that time? We also need to know how much time do we have to spend? How much is reserved for other things? How are people’s hours allocated to work-in-progress (WIP)? What’s the planned portfolio of work and how much time needs to be reserved and spent?
Think of your home budget. You have a monthly budget, you have fixed costs and variable costs and you want to spend on new things, but you also need to reserve for unforeseen things and maintenance. We don’t just spend willy-nilly on everything that takes our fancy! Ok, well perhaps some do!
We need decision-making mechanisms to determine where to spend time. We need to value our time.
We need priority mechanisms when we have conflicting demands on spending time.
We can only spend it one time. We should ask “How can we spend this time in the best way?” If we don’t spend it now, will we incur additional costs later? For example, if we don’t spend on maintaining the car, it could break down at some time and cost a lot more to fix. The same applies to maintenance and removing technical debt and problems. Often, we are not so good at quantifying lost opportunity costs, or historical costs that support our “estimates” around incurred costs.
How much time does something cost us? Whenever we think of spending in private, we usually ask “What does it cost?” and decide if we are prepared to pay that price. In IT we try to estimate costs in terms of time to be spent on IT initiatives but are often poor at evaluating and making transparent the actual costs in time after we have incurred them, and where we could have saved on the costs. Why did it take so long? Should we have invested time in developing new skills? Could we have saved the costs by automating some of the activities?In IT we try to estimate costs in terms of time to be spent on IT initiatives but are often poor at evaluating and making transparent the actual costs in time after we have incurred them – @GamingPaul #leadership #business Click To Tweet
We often see investing as something inherently risky and want guaranteed returns. Usually, if we invest we don’t see the returns until sometime later, they are often uncertain returns. Investing in something like continual improvement or automation, aimed at preventing wasting time on rework, or on manual activities. If they don’t see the downstream benefits, then senior leaders are averse to investing in improvements for the sake of improvements. What return will they get? Such as additional time saved that can be spent on more value-adding business work. We often cannot quantify the return on investment in improvement work nor how to value your time.
Such as getting it right first time, avoiding wasting time on rework. Saving time by automating manual activities. When it comes to saving, think of your home budget. If the budget is tight, then you make your spending transparent and look for areas to save in. Often, we have too little transparency and insight into where we could and where we need to save time. When we save, we often want to spend or invest in other things. When you save time be transparent on how saved time will now be spent or invested, or where you may decide to lend it out.Often, we have too little transparency and insight into where we could and where we need to save time – @GamingPaul #leadership #business Click To Tweet
For example borrowing from scarce, skilled, knowledgeable workers who can complete a task more quickly, saving us time in having to learn some new skills and saving us from wasting time caused by possible mistakes. However, we could also invest some borrowed time in making sure that somebody learns these skills so that we don’t have to keep borrowing, such as creating multi-functional teams. We then no longer have to keep borrowing from other teams.
We can lend our time to help others, helping them complete something on time, or lending time to fill in a shortage or capacity need in another team, such as a Dev team lending us some skilled resources the first few weeks of something going live. Usually, in our home life, we want the loan to be paid back. In business, we often don’t look for the payback. For example, ask how the loan will be used by another team to make an investment, such as cross-training their team, we may now have fewer interruptions and spend less time on what may be seen as non-value-adding activities, like solving things that a first-level team could solve. However, we may now need to lend more for them to make their investment worthwhile. Not only sit down and do the work but show others what we did, how, and why, i.e. to value your time.
This is spending on the wrong things that don’t deliver any value. Wasting time by fixing things we could have stopped from happening if we had invested in better testing, or invested in removing problems and technical debt. Wasting time working on the wrong priorities, because we don’t have a priority mechanism linked to value. Wasting time as we were HOPING something would deliver a return. Again in terms of your family budget, we question our spending, “Why do we need to make that spend now?” and “What will it deliver?” To be able to see how much we are wasting we need transparency. What are we spending it on, was the spend necessary now, and did the spend deliver the expected return?To be able to see how much we are wasting we need transparency. What are we spending it on, was the spend necessary now, and did the spend deliver the expected return? – @GamingPaul #leadership #business Click To Tweet
We sometimes give our time away, asking nothing in return, a charitable gift. We can give people our attention, we can give feedback. When we give things away, we usually want them to be seen as valuable by the recipient. So that they don’t waste the gift. When we give feedback, we are often unclear on how that will be used. Will it be used to invest in improvements? To spend time on doing something with the feedback? If we use time to capture and give feedback we don’t want it to be a waste of time. Again, there’s a need to value your time.
Sometimes people steal our time or borrow it without asking. By not recording workarounds, by skipping testing, by making assumptions, by not fully documenting, suspecting that it may go wrong but knowing somebody else will have to spend time resolving it. “Let somebody else spend the time sorting it out.”
This is reserving time for unforeseen situations like outages, reserving specialist hours when a new product or feature goes live, or reserving time for continual learning and improvements or maintenance activities. We need to be transparent about time we have reserved and time we want to reserve. It’s easy for people to claim our reserved time for something else, to borrow it (without paying it back), or steal it. Reserved time can be seen as wasted time. Such as “limit WIP” – product owners often fill team WIP with new features and use time reserved for technical debt to work on features. They often say they are borrowing these reserved hours, but how often is it paid back? Is there transparency in reserved time and how reserved time was spent?
We owe time for fixing things like technical debt. We know we should pay it back but sometimes we don’t, we don’t always see how much downstream time this wastes and how important the downstream wasted time is to those stakeholders. We may be stealing time from them.
When we invest we want to know the return on the investment. The same for investing in something like continual improvement, or investing in learning. What is the return on the investment of time? Will it enable us to stop wasting time on mistakes? Will we be able to do things quicker? Will it stop us from borrowing time from other specialists? We are often poor at quantifying the return on improving or learning in relation to time spent and time saved.Have you ever stopped to think about what is the return on the investment of time? Will it enable us to stop wasting time on mistakes? Will we be able to do things quicker? – @GamingPaul explores in this blog. #leadership #business Click To Tweet
Time spent on certain skills is suddenly high value, time spent on the wrong skills devalues the skills, and time using those skills is devalued and no longer in demand. As Warren Buffet said on beating inflation “Invest in yourself and be the best at what you do.” We need to be aware of how new skills suddenly become valuable and invest in time to develop those skills.
The theory of relativity
The above puts time into the perspective of currency. Now here’s time in terms of relativity.
Einstein determined that time is relative—in other words, the rate at which time passes depends on your frame of reference.Time is a very precious currency that must be used wisely. How are you spending your time? – @GamingPaul #leadership #business Click To Tweet
For teams needing to transform, all this change being thrust upon them is going too quickly. For managers, it isn’t going fast enough. Different teams go at different speeds, some need more time to learn and develop. This means you need to invest time in helping the teams grow and learn. Spend more time coaching. Managers need to practice patience. Trying to make teams go quicker than is realistic may cause additional downstream costs, not only in terms of wasted time, borrowing time, but also employee and customer satisfaction and business risks.
“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” Leo Tolstoy, War & Peace.
Time is a very precious currency that must be used wisely. How are you spending your time? How do you value your time?
Paul Wilkinson has been involved in the IT industry for more than 25 years and has a broad background in IT operations, IT management, and product innovation and development. He was project team lead in the original BITE (Business & IT Excellence) process modeling of ITIL, an ITIL V2 author, and member of the ITIL V3 advisory group.
He is co-owner of GamingWorks and co-developer of a range of business simulations focusing on IT service management, project management, business process management, business and IT alignment, alliance management and co-author and developer of the ABC of ICT products and publications.