Probably one of the greatest challenges today’s leaders face is to manage their time. From the viewpoint of a department leader or for a company owner it often feels like a hamster in the wheel. The very moment you think you’re through with critical tasks for the day-you’re faced with a whole bunch of new e-mails, somebody’s standing in the door and has a question, the telephone won’t stop ringing and so forth.
The key here is first of all not to get distracted and to focus your attention on what’s important. That sounds very good but is actually very difficult in practice. There are many methods, from the Eisenhower principle to differentiation between what’s urgent and what’s important, to facing and writing your tasks on a sheet of paper -simply getting stuff out of your head often helps, as you can’t think clearly about how to deal with issues when your head is overloaded.
These concepts by themselves are somewhat helpful. However, they are often used in an isolated way, ignoring challenges that occur with related projects and activities. Let’s say you are working on three different projects and some of them are actually part of your goals for this financial year. Let’s further presume that some of these projects have been evolving over time and have become increasingly difficult, so you had to add further follow-up activities to them during the year. Now, at the same time your boss puts more and more single tasks on your desk, some tasks are regarding projects of colleagues, and so forth. So: what happens now with the priorities that we’ve set up in the first place for the original projects?
The truth is that priorities change, things are dynamic and that many new or changing priorities just don’t show up clearly enough for people to actively manage them. The key is to never lose sight of your goals. You constantly have to work on your strategy, i.e. the way with which to achieve your goal. You need to check on an ongoing basis if and how to adapt routinely to evolving tasks and projects. And one thing is vital: never forget what you’re being measured on. Never ever forget your key performance indicators, the measurement points that are used by your boss(es) to judge at the end of the year how well you’ve done.
Let’s take another example. Let’s say you’re a leading manager of a business division and one of your key goals is to reduce churn. One of your key performance indicators just turned red and may be measured not only in money but also in numbers of lost customers. You need to rely on strategies on how to avoid losing these clients. A couple of milestones of your strategy may be to get the feedback of your managers on the status of customer relationships.
Another one may be to build a plan with the Marketing Department on how to keep current customers posted regarding the company’s work for other customers including their opinions on how well the company has done. The third milestone may be to set up a series of meetings with key decision makers in the course of the current financial year. These meetings will be used to discuss how to get meaningful customer feedback, and to discuss and decide on how to improve the collaboration to deliver the results that customers expect.
Sounds familiar? Now, all these projects need to be prioritized and broken down into much smaller steps. And many of these steps need to be delegated properly to the right people in order to move the whole programme swiftly forward.
Another example: if one of your clients has indicated that they want to switch suppliers, you may need to increase the priority of that particular project as opposed to other tasks and do so dynamically according to the current situation.
The key thing is to integrate the tasks that your project is consisting of with the many line management tasks and routine jobs into an ongoing plan. That plan must be managed properly at least once a week and priorities need to be reviewed with care. But in our highly standardized world, routine management usually has priority. Anything new must first prove that it is worth pursuing further. And that is quite unfair, considering that new ideas and projects first need to go through the learning curve in order to be run as smoothly and efficiently as long practiced processes.
In a nutshell: not integrating tasks efficiently can kill your innovation cycle and your results. Do always separate your innovation management from routine management, particularly when allocating time and money. Make sure you don’t put your innovation stream on the guillotine. You may need it – sooner than you may think.
Would you like further information? Do you have questions or suggestions? We look forward to your call, email or letter. You can contact us using the following methods:
Jens Moeller Consulting Ltd.
Phone: +49 69 / 5050 27422
Email: [email protected]/jm_old
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