Not Enough Time

Too many things in motion simultaneously and not enough time in the day, week, month to deal with it all.  The volume of emails, meetings, problems and fire fighting far exceeds the 24 hours available each day.

Unfortunately, we can’t buy more hours per day.  There is no app for that.  Dang.

The good news, however, is that many leaders out there are running some fascinating experiments on how they spend their time each day, week, month.  These individuals are testing the concept of “leader standard work”; i.e. intentionally setting aside specific times of the day and/or week to accomplish specific tasks; intentionally practicing specific behaviors, asking questions, coaching to A3 thinking, etc. throughout each day.

They are intentionally spending a targeted number of hours in gemba each week to see and understand how their people are doing in serving the needs of their customers/patients; they are practicing focusing on the processes and results, versus just results.

These leaders are applying a very simple concept to themselves and how they lead. They understand that increased variability results in increased cost, increased time, increased defects, increased rework, increased costs, decreased satisfaction, decreased quality, etc.

They are applying this concept to their own leadership thinking and behaviors.  Their hypothesis’ are along the lines of 1) standardization of how they think and behave will result in a stable form of leadership that they can then continuously improve upon and 2) this will result the variability in their leadership and therefore lead to improved outcomes.

As a result of this experimentation over time, they are discovering that the volume of email, meetings, problems and crisis’s are gradually shrinking; not disappearing but certainly less intense.  As a result they are finding more time available per day, week, month to continuously improve how they lead and how their organizations perform.


6 thoughts on “Not Enough Time

  1. As one of those leaders testing the application of leader standard work, I can absolutely vouch for it’s results. Can something be transformational and incremental at the same time? I have always thought this was true for Lean approaches to front line work and teams, and now I have evidence that it is true for me as an individual leader. That being said, some days are better than others. This past week I could only find evidence of two times when I asked questions about desired future state, root cause, or what would be tried next to learn. I missed a lot of other targets on my leader standard work, too. Reflecting on the week, my best current thinking is that root cause was getting caught up in the larger organizational system’s culture which runs counter to the Lean culture I seek to implement in my group, due to being in the middle of the organization-wide budget process. I find it much easier to practice my leader standard work behaviors within my own team than when interacting with other parts of the organization in which I work. I would appreciate any thoughts from others who have been in a similar situation about what they learned about how to handle this.

    1. Eleanor, Thanks much for sharing your reflections on how your leader standard work is unfolding for yourself, within you department and the challenges across the organization. Interested in reflections from others with similar experiences. – Karl

  2. Moving industries has helped me to see how better to connect my work with customers and shake old “ruts” in behaviors that no longer apply at my new org. In order for leaders to move at the new speed of business we must adapt our techniques to meet the new reality. How we spend our time is our way of getting what we pay for. I say investing in ensuring quality and adaptability to business needs pays off with results of happy customers and staff.

    1. Howard, Thanks for jumping in and building upon this thinking. Amen to “investing in ensuring quality and adaptability to business needs”! If we are not getting the expected pay off of happy customers and staff, we really do have to look in the mirror and rethink our leadership thinking and actions. – Karl

  3. Nice read. Makes me think of all the songs that have time in them. “Time on our side”, “Does anyone really know what time it is”, “Time has come today”, “Times are a changing”. We humans have a love/hate relationship with it. Interesting.

    Have you written anything on innovation and Lean. Not continuous improvement, but leapfrog innovation. No one knew we needed an iPhone except for Jobs. Once it’s created, I can readily see Lean principles kick in. I’m having lots of conversations with my friend Tracy about this. He is concerned his continuous improvement approach has kept business he works with from generating ground breaking innovations, i.e., Jeff Bakeman’s work with the geniuses. No one knew you could use a GPS to track billboard impressions ala Neilson. The geniuses just saw it. Does Lean have a purview that is post innovation. Take care, Darryl

    1. Darryl, Love the way you think (as always!). I have not written on innovation & lean but there is certainly a place for it and lots of examples in various industries to look at. In short, I think that the concept of continuous improvement needs to live at two levels: incremental and breakthrough. I agree with you; it’s the transformational improvements that leapfrog organizations ahead. Would be fun with sit with you and Tracy to explore further. – Karl

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