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Time is Money…

February 28, 2013

“Time is Money” Benjamin Franklin made the assertion in 1748 (it was used in various manners before this, since antiquity, but this is the generally recognized origin of the phrase as quoted); the first result of this was the encouragement to start paying workers by the hour instead of paying them for the work they were accomplishing, which is probably a critical change for our “post industrial revolution world”.

Time is Money

Over the past few years, something has happened in the world. Sometime during the second half of the twentieth century, we ran out of time. Notwithstanding an amazing list of “time-saving” devices, it seems that people have less and less time available. They don’t have time to cook a meal, they don’t have time to walk to work, they don’t have time to day-dream, they don’t have time to go to the theatre .. and then, as a natural result, in the beginning of the twenty-first century, we ran out money as well. If time is money, it stands to reason that no-time is no-money.

This is true in our personal life, but it is also true in the business world. I see many companies and one of the most common complaints I hear is that “we don’t have the resources we need…”; my response is always the same: you have the resources you need, the problem is you have too much work. When the day is used up, there are no spare minutes.

Does this mean that companies need to learn to refuse work? Do we need to send our customers to our competitors because we are full? Possibly, but more likely, you need to learn to focus on what really matters. The twentieth century French author Boris Vian said (I believe it was in “L’écume des jours“) that people spent too much time living instead of working. What he meant was probably the opposite of you are thinking: he explains that you should take the time to think how to do your work more efficiently, develop the tools that will help you, but you are in such a rush to get things done, that you forget to take time to improve your work habits. You have probably heard the story about the lumberjack who had so many trees to cut, he did not have time to sharpen his saw.

Imagine an organization in which the roles and responsibilities are well defined. The people who were hired because they are good at their job are focused on doing the job at which they are good, rather than sitting in meetings, trying to repair their computer, being called off their work to help the sales team fill out a bid. Imagine an organization in which you could focus on doing your job, doing your work from beginning to end, without significant or frequent interruptions…

It has often been demonstrated that if people can do three jobs, one after the other, all three will be finished earlier then if they are required to do all three at the same time because they are all high-priority. Yet, managers continue to get their engineers, their technical staff and their project managers to share their time on a continuous basis between multiple completely different projects and activities.

Most companies now appear to live under the idea that faster is better, promises are made to customers without a clear understanding of the time really required to do the work, employees are pressured into producing faster. Management needs to learn to allow staff to concentrate on their work, take the time to do the work correctly, with adequate time to check what they are doing and think about how best to do the work for which they were hired. By being able to do the work correctly, and take the time necessary to do the work efficiently, they will be able to produce higher quality work, thus reducing the time and cost required for quality verification and validation activities, correction and maintenance.

Invest time, because time is money, and there is no return on investment without an investment.

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