I've been preaching for years now that companies should pay more attention to how much time they regularly squander. Whether we're talking about confusing communication, inefficient meetings, or unimportant initiatives, organizations waste enormous amounts of time on non-value added activities. Most companies don't seem to really care as long as this waste doesn't hit the bottom line (and it doesn't, since managers are on salary, not hourly wages). The same companies that will argue the need for a corporate jet to keep their senior team maximally productive (Down time at airports? The horror!), will tolerate the rest of the company spending 300,000 hours per year supporting one weekly executive team meeting. Disappointingly, even companies engaged in lean transformations seem not to care much about the waste of time. I've met many people from nearly every functional silo in these firms over the past five years, and they all complain about email overload, meeting gridlock, and other pointless activities. And yet their firms accept this waste as either unimportant or unavoidable, a fact of nature along the lines of the sun rising in the east and setting in the west. They'd never accept a similar waste of time and attention on the plant floor, of course, because people are working on the clock, and because they can measure material utilization down to the penny. Muda of time? No problem. Muda of metal? No way.
But perhaps there's hope. The May issue of HBR features Your Scarcest Resource, an article that quantifies some of the cost of poorly managed time, and suggests strategies to reduce the organizational waste. There are no Copernican insights here -- the ideas are as gob-smackingly obvious as most time management ideas. (Start meetings on time, and end them early if they're not productive. Standardize the decision-making process. Etc.) -- but it's a good article. But just maybe the HBR imprimatur will at least get management to start turning their lean lenses on the waste of this most precious, and non-renewable, resource.
If you decide to take it on, feel free to call me. I wrote the book on it.