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  • Writer's pictureHillel Glazer

The Elephant in a Room of Elephants

Leverage Time, Don’t Manage It

Imagine demand is not your problem. You have plenty of clients – demanding ones – and deadlines. Is it enough to have all the personnel you could want who are also the absolute best talent out there? What if they all had perfect understanding of the work that needed to be done and drive to do it?

Is that enough?

OK. OK. You’ve also got ample budget. Is this easy enough for you yet? Is that everything you need?


But if you thought, “yes, of course!” you’re not alone. If you thought, “I’d also need time,” you’re on the right track. And if you thought, “there’s never enough time, so I’m not even going there,” you’ve found the elephant in a room full of elephants.

You need time. Time is the elephant. You could stack your deck with everything imaginable, but if you’re not thinking about time, you’re not alone.

Time is the only programmatic value we have entirely no control over. Though we treat time like a variable … is it really? We can’t alter it. When we run the numbers and find there isn’t enough time, we relegate time to just another risk to “manage.” In every field, industry and discipline we’re taught to “manage” time. If we’re being honest, we don’t even really do a great job at that. We’re not even given decent means to do anything with time other than wish we had more of it.

Why Focus On Time and What Does It Have To Do With Running Our Business?

Let’s take a look at a familiar scene: Your team is diligently working on client “A’s” project when client “B” calls inquiring about theirs. Stalling, you tell your team to switch to project “B” so that you can respond honestly – mostly. Before you can get back to project “A,” your sales team wins big-ticket client “C” promising to get started right away, as there’s also a progress meeting in two weeks. “B” now yields to project “C.”

You know none of these projects are going to deliver on time.

The new plan now is: superhuman heroics! (Great plan!)

Sure, curtailing sales’ proclivity for promises others can’t keep could have helped. But this scenario wasn’t created by winning client “C.” The root cause of this scenario is time. The solution will therefore involve time.

Deep down clients want the same thing: responsiveness. What is responsiveness if not a function of time? How fast can you respond to your client? Unwittingly, your operation isn’t set-up for that.

It’s not that your team isn’t working fast enough. It’s that every time you interrupt one project to work on another, you’re making it harder to make progress for ALL of them. Interruptions and multitasking break the laws of physics.

Physics? What’s physics got to do with it?

A New Time Paradigm

Responsiveness is about speed – which demands a completely different time paradigm. Instead of “managing” time, we’re going to leverage time. The difference is subtle. Leveraging time isn’t about tools and techniques. It’s about changing how we think about time, literally changing our relationship to it.

We all live with three fundamentals of physics in our everyday world (no quantum mechanics here):

  • We can’t control time.

  • No object can be in more than one place at a time.

  • Only one object can occupy a point in space at the same time.

Have you ever considered that the tools and techniques we use to plan and carry out our work routinely, habitually and indiscriminately violate these fundamentals?

Leveraging time is using time to our advantage. Making progress and being responsive is key. We need to shorten the time gap between when an event happens and our ability to respond to it. This has nothing to do with superhuman heroics. It is easiest done by:

  • Working on one thing at a time.

  • Showing progress on that thing frequently.

  • Working on small enough pieces so we can complete them, measure progress and avoid shipping defect riddled junk.

Sound Familiar?

It should. This was This was the idea behind agile. That is, before agile was reduced to tools and techniques. And by and large, for this reason, the promise of agile was short-lived if ever realized in the first place.

When reduced to tools and techniques, we forget the fundamentals. The moment you walk into a problem space with a box of tools and techniques, the problem presents you with something your toolbox can’t fix. Tools and techniques alone aren’t enough to deal with the real world. But fundamentally dealing with time differently can handle anything reality can throw at you. Watch this space. We’ll be going on a time journey.


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