In a recent poll, when asked, “What one improvement could make your business more profitable?”, I voted “Having more time to think”, confident I would be in the minority, only to discover that over half the responses were for this option.
Well, if businesses want more time to think, that can be very easily arranged.
I suggest that few businesses, in any sector, run meetings effectively, and time can always be saved by being brisk and to the point rather than indulging people who have always got away with rambling and digression.
More importantly, many businesses do not set the agendas of progress meetings properly. The board should not be discussing the replacement photocopier. Is there a defined, agreed and available functional structure in the business which can be used to determine the remit of meetings? This will help structure progress meetings, even adding items to the agenda which would otherwise be forgotten only to take far more time later when their omission is discovered.
A second area where time could be saved—or, at least, time could be freed up for strategic thinking by the appropriate people—is delegation. On the whole, business people do not delegate well, and they do not delegate enough. Whilst a challenge to delegate more and better will stir up issues around trust for some business people, that does not mean that it isn’t time for them to deal with that issue.
On the whole, the boss fails to delegate not because his or her staff can’t do the work, but because the boss has an unwarranted anxiety that the staff might do the job poorly. If that were really true, then it would throw up serious issues around recruitment. On the (rare) occasion when a staff member messes up, all that is needed is the ability to recover from the mistake. The damage done by one mistake to a business is usually far less than the damage done to the business by it not thinking or acting sufficiently strategically (because the boss didn’t have time to do that because he/she was too busy micromanaging).
A third way in which time could be saved—or at least what time is available for thinking could be used more effectively—is by senior people learning how to think better. Few enough managers have management training; fewer have leadership training; virtually none have explicit training in how to think more productively, more imaginatively and more usefully.
There are activities which I believe senior managers in businesses don’t do enough of. One of these is talking to the staff. Whilst those conversations might not be classified as ‘thinking’, nevertheless they will inevitably provide plenty of food for thought. More food for thought equals better thought.
Another activity to do more of is talking to peers. The construction industry, say, has a reputation for being somewhat insular, somewhat introverted. Well, any idea that there are commonalities between construction and, say, marketing at least needs testing and, since there are many points of similarity, more food for thought will be obtained by people in the two sectors communicating.
These ideas may appear to be too trivial to take notice of, but I challenge any business to convince me that they could not delegate better, think better, gain time by holding meetings better—let alone that there is already too much communication between management and staff.