Brett Knowles, pm2 Consulting
Brett is a long-time thought leader in the Strategy Execution space for high-tech organizations, beginning in the late 80’s while teaching at Harvard and being involved in the initial Balanced Scorecard research and books. His client work has been published in Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Fortune and countless other business publications.
Pub: April 22 2021
Upd: January 23 2023
Non-value-adding "work" is increasing
The amount of time it takes for us to get our work done is INCREASING. We are spending a larger and larger percentage of our time on non-value-adding tasks...in meetings that we should not have been invited to, in meetings that should not have been called in the first place, responding to unimportant emails, Slacks, voice mails, etc.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics presents data indicating that overall productivity growth has significantly declined since 2007 and, in some sectors, has barely kept pace with the rate of inflation. (1)
CEB, a research, and advisory firm, conducted some analysis that indicated the time and effort required to complete many critical business tasks grew between 2010 and 2015.
- Hiring a new employee took sixty-three days in 2015, up from forty-two days in 2010
- Completing an office IT project in 2015 took more than ten months, up from less than nine months in 2010.
- Entering into a B2B sales contract in 2015 took 22 percent longer than it did in 2010.
The same CEB analysis showed that in many cases, it’s not just the amount of time that grew— the number of people required to complete these tasks increased as well. (2)
We are focusing on the wrong things
Strategy is the art and science of resource allocation. It is the role of the CEO and their Executive Committees to set strategies - and allocate those scarce resources. The problem is that most current strategy processes act as if capital is the only scarce resource and as if there is an endless amount of time available.
In reality, time is a new key scarce resource...both elapsed time and processing (hands-on) time. A single great idea can dramatically change the direction of a corporation - but only if you have time to think of it and time to develop it.
As companies grow the complexity of their structure increases with each new product, market, and business, bloating costs and slowing decision making. Increasingly complex processes call for employees to waste time on needless internal interactions, unproductive or inconsequential meetings, and unnecessary e-communications. Our corporations cannot generate great ideas when employees are trapped in countless meetings and bureaucratic procedures.
The organization gets in the way of getting things done and the strategy and Executive Committee do not focus on this waste.
Former Intel CEO Andy Grove once wrote, “Just as you would not permit a fellow employee to steal a piece of office equipment, you shouldn’t let anyone walk away with the time of his fellow managers.” (3)
As the cost of communication decreases, the number of interactions increases exponentially
At most companies, no real costs are associated with requesting coworkers’ time. If you want a meeting, your assistant merely sends out a meeting request or finds and fills an opening in the team’s calendar. If you identify a problem in need of fixing, you convene a task force to study it and, most likely, launch an initiative to address it. Such demands on the organization’s time typically undergo no review and require no formal approval. For example, leaders at one large manufacturing company recently discovered that a regularly scheduled ninety-minute meeting of midlevel managers costs more than $15 million annually. When asked “Who is responsible for approving this meeting?” the managers were at a loss. “No one,” they replied. “Tom’s assistant just schedules it and the team attends.” In effect, a junior vice president’s administrative assistant was permitted to invest $15 million without supervisor approval. No such thing would ever happen with the company’s financial capital. (3)
Time is the scarcest resource, and unless it is managed nothing else can be managed. —Peter Drucker
The solution: Focus
Focusing on achieving successful strategy execution is all about setting priorities and helping each other stick to them.
Good strategy execution requires that their employees have discipline, and this is achieved through setting detailed and doable tasks to move the strategy from paper into action. To achieve a goal, a strategy needs to be created through a plan that can be followed.
(1) Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Productivity and Costs by Industry: Selected Service- Providing Industries, 2015,” Long run labor productivity, unit labor costs, and related data, Table 2, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/prin2.nr0.htm .
(2) 2. Tom Monahan, “The Hard Evidence: Business Is Slowing Down,” Fortune, January 28, 2016, http://fortune.com/2016/01/28/ business-decision-making-project-management .
(3) Andrew Grove, Computer Decisions 16 (1984): 126.
(4) Michael C. Mankins, “This Weekly Meeting Took Up 300,000 Hours a Year,” Harvard Business Review, April 29, 2014, https://hbr .org/2014/04/ how- a- weekly- meeting- took-up-300000-hours-a-year.
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