Successfully reported this slideshow.
We use your LinkedIn profile and activity data to personalize ads and to show you more relevant ads. You can change your ad preferences anytime.
Best Practice · Time Lessons for today’s managers

page 1


Lessons from the Lakota:
Time lessons for today’...
Best Practice · Time Lessons for today’s managers

page 2

When most of us think about Indians and Indian culture it is no...
Best Practice · Time Lessons for today’s managers
order. How things are handled in time, conveys status and intention.
Best Practice · Time Lessons for today’s managers
lawyers, investment bankers, computer programmers, and many other
Best Practice · Time Lessons for today’s managers

What do we know about time?
In the business world there isn’t a single ...
Best Practice · Time Lessons for today’s managers
Fragmentation and the rise of instantaneous time Anyone with a
mobile ph...
Best Practice · Time Lessons for today’s managers

Changing time cultures: 3 case studies
Time and how it is managed is a ...
Best Practice · Time Lessons for today’s managers

page 8

Lessons from the Lakota and other case studies

Stage 2: With m...
Best Practice · Time Lessons for today’s managers
control if I could get employees thinking like the Lakota: ready for
Best Practice · Time Lessons for today’s managers

page 10

Notes and references
Best Practice · Time Lessons for today’s managers

page 11

Schriber, J. B., & Gutek, B. A. (1987). Some time dimension...
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in …5

Time lessons from the Lakota (Time management)


Published on

In management and business, time is everywhere. Everything happens over time, so time could be seen as the essential element of all change. We all know what time is, but if someone asked us to define time, we would be hard pressed. Even though time is something hard to define, it is critically important to every organization. Creating the right time culture is something we all need to think about. This article reviews the origins of our current concepts of time, how views of time can be different and provide some insights into how we could manage time better by looking at an unlikely source of inspiration: A study on time and the Lakota Indians.

Published in: Business, Education
  • Get access to 16,000 woodworking plans, Download 50 FREE Plans... ♥♥♥
    Are you sure you want to  Yes  No
    Your message goes here

Time lessons from the Lakota (Time management)

  1. 1. Best Practice · Time Lessons for today’s managers page 1 BEST PRACTICE Lessons from the Lakota: Time lessons for today’s managers In management and business, time is everywhere. Everything happens over time, so time could be seen as the essential element of all change. We all know what time is, but if someone asked us to define time, we would be hard pressed. Even though time is something hard to define, it is critically important to every organization. Creating the right time culture is something we all need to think about. This article reviews the origins of our current concepts of time, how views of time can be different and provide some insights into how we could manage time better by looking at an unlikely source of inspiration: A study on time and the Lakota Indians. by Bryan Cassady (KU Leuven) What is time? We all talk about time, but do we know what time is? This question has been asked by philosophers, scientists and business people for years. Perhaps the best and most succinct answer comes from St Augustine. When asked the simple question: What is time? He answered: “If no one asks me, I know; but if any Person should require me to tell him, I cannot”1. A standard dictionary definition doesn’t help. Webster’s definition of time is: the measured or measurable period during which an action, process, or condition exists or continues2. Perhaps time cannot be defined, but described. • Time is: Nature’s way of keeping everything from happening all at once. • Time is: An imaginary term created by the rich and powerful to limit your activity • Time is: Enjoyed when it’s your own and often wasted by other people • Time is: A measurement of life created by human beings to keep a standard in their lives3 Even if we can’t define time, most business people would agree time is important, time is something that moves in one direction, time is an uncontrollable fact of life4. In this article we’ll see that time is less of a constant and more something we create together. At a country level, company level, department level and in the smallest units of business life we create time cultures and definitions of time. How we do this defines us and our organizations. Our concepts of time determine how we work, when we work and often how effectively we work. Given the importance of time in organizations, I believe we need to start thinking about time, and what it means. If we want to manage effectively, we need to think about how time is defined in our organizations. In this article I will argue: the current view of time in most organizations is the same as the one created back at the start of the industrial revolution. We view time as money, and our ability to control time as critical to business success. It is important to remember, the nature of work has changed since the time of the industrial revolution. In this context, we need to take another look at our time culture and make sure we have the right ones for our organizations. Together we’ll find some answers in some unlikely places. Culture codes As any manager knows, what in unsaid is often more important than what is said. There might be talk about the importance of family values at work, but if the company culture says you need to work an 80 hour week to succeed, there won’t be many managers leaving early in the afternoon to watch their kids play baseball. As human beings we attach meaning to everything. How we dress, talk and work is driven by the meanings we attach to different things in our world. In business we tend to simply ask why and expect a reasonable answer. The problem is we often don’t know why we do things and the explanations we give are often little more than post rationalizations of things we can’t really explain. As an international manager looking to understand my colleagues, I felt I hit gold when I found the book “Cultural Codes” by Clotaire Rapaille. He argues and shows how we acquire a silent system of codes as we grow up and work. These codes invisibly shape how we behave, even when we are completely unaware of our motives. He answers questions like: Why do Americans like big cars (he links it to our first sexual experiences) Why are Americans so focused on work (he says it goes back to the challenges faced when the country was created)5. More important than the insights in his book was a realization that as a manager I could learn a lot from the work of sociologists and anthropologists. Instead of looking at what we do and why we say we do it, we need to look at the invisible to really understand what is happening. For those of you familiar with Shein and his work on organization culture this is nothing new. For me it was an eye opening revelation. After reading the “Culture Code”, a colleague suggested Shein’s book “Organizational Culture and Leadership”. Shein describes organizational culture as the set of shared, taken-forgranted implicit assumptions that a group holds and that determines how it perceives, thinks about, and reacts to its various environments. Norms become a fairly visible manifestation of these assumptions, but it is important to remember that behind the norms lie deeper, taken-for-granted sets of assumptions that most members of a culture never question or examine. The members of a culture are not even aware of their own culture until they encounter a different one.6 To understand our organizations we need to look at other ones. When we understand other cultures we have a different set of glasses we can use to understand our own.
  2. 2. Best Practice · Time Lessons for today’s managers page 2 When most of us think about Indians and Indian culture it is not the place we’d look for inspiration for new management techniques. I would like to surprise you. Before talking about what I have learned from the Lakota, I would like to show how there are many different concepts of time and go through the historical origins of our current time culture. Different concepts of time Concepts of time In the West when we think about time, time is like an arrow. It started someplace and continues to move in the same direction. Time exists, but we create the social context that gives it meaning. In the language of anthropologists we could say time is socially constructed. Time does not exist outside the events, time is in the events7. Events and the meaning of events are defined by the groups and organizations we belong to. This means there are as many different types of time and perceptions of time as there are groups and organizations. If times differ, the big questions are (1) How do they differ? (2)How much do they differ? (3) How do they come to differ?” 8 (4) Equally important, should we do anything about it? It is tempting to say we all have our own view of time which fits our needs. But the reality is probably a bit more complex. Time, like language, is a frame through which we perceive the world. It is a concept built through experience. In studies of language it has been shown that without words, conceptual thought doesn’t evolve. Given the importance of time in our lives, it is clear our view of the world can not exist without some concept of time. How different people can view time might surprise you. Arrow time vs. cyclical time. In the west we tend think of time like an arrow. Time started someplace and continues to move in the same direction. In Africa and Asia, time is seen as cyclical. Perhaps the most extreme example are the Hindu that believe in reincarnation. If one views time as cyclical, one will be much less affected by any one incident. This can be seen in the way many Hindu and Americans react differently to time pressure. Americans tend to be frazzled at work, hurrying to get things done; convinced they have no time to waste. In contrast, the Hindu are much less concerned about the pace of work, because they do not perceive their lives as finite9. Monochronic vs. Polychronic time: Do you like to do one thing at a time or many things at a once? Chances are your answer reflects in large part your cultural background. In the US and Northern Europe people tend to prefer doing one thing at a time. This is called monochronic time. People that grew up in these cultures tend to say a good manager is a person that can do one thing at a time. They will praise individuals able to focus and check things off their "'to do list". Arrow time: Cyclical time: In much of Africa, time is viewed as cyclical. The past and present live side by side in their daily lives. Circular time: Among many religious groups, including the Hindu, time is a never ending circle. Patchwork time: Among African tribes like the Hopi, there is no beginning and no end of time. The past and present coexist. In their language there are not even past and future tenses of verbs. Other people, usually characterized as the “Mediterraneans”, like to do many things at once. A person focusing on one-thing-at-a-time would be seen as inflexible. In their view, a good manager is not someone inflexible10. In the business world this means American managers, accustomed to fairly rigid schedules and traditional time management (monochronic orientations), are often psychologically stressed when they visit countries where others do not share their view of time11. Task time vs. clock time Perhaps the most important concept of time in the business world is the difference between task time and clock time. In task time, the activity itself defines the pace, incidence and intensity of work. 12 Little attention is paid to the clock. Some people call this ‘time in the zone’. This is a moment where results flow naturally with little concern for the passage of time. In contrast to task time is clock time. Clock time is how most businesses are managed. We expect people to be in the office at a specific time and put in the hours. As we’ll see, clock time is a product of the industrial revolution. Created to ensure assembly line coordination and used as a proxy for worker contribution. Time can be many different things. A lot depends on the cultural context. Adapted from: Time, contributions from the social sciences. Poole, Barbara S., Financial Services Review, 10570810, Winter2000, Vol. 9. There are many concepts of time, including the famous New York minute. Some would say “...that there are as many different kinds of time as there are human beings on this earth....”13 Concepts of time are important because it changes how we look at things and how we do the things we do. Time imposes a social
  3. 3. Best Practice · Time Lessons for today’s managers order. How things are handled in time, conveys status and intention. The pacing of events, the rhythms of life, the sequence in which things are done, and the duration of events are all subject to our views of time14. Some would disagree that time is different for everyone, but it is easy to see how in our organizations the smallest work groups can deal with time in very different ways. Some groups (people) doing the same work seem to always be stressed while others show a quiet intensity and get the work done that needs to be done. A history of time and time management Before the clock, time was measured by changes in the seasons and events in our daily life. Today, we don’t need to look too far to find these concepts of time. For example, in Madagascar people still talk about rice cooking time (about a half hour) and frying of a locust time (around a minute) 15.. The first accurate clocks were developed in the 1700s before the industrial revolution. At this time a clock was a luxury. In Britain, taxes were even levied on the number of clocks in a household. A clock was seen as a sign on conspicuous wealth that ought to be taxed. In this era, a watch was a huge investment; a good watch could cost as much as an average man would earn in 6 months. This changed with the industrial revolution. Watches and clocks started to be mass produced. People had clocks at work and at home – measured time became a part of people’s lives. Before the industrial revolution, families worked together from dawn until dusk, intermingling work and family responsibilities, subject to the particular demands of the day. In the pre-industrial era, businesspeople and craftsmen were nearly all self employed, working in their own homes with their tools, setting their own hours16. As workers entered the factories, their efforts needed to be coordinated. It was difficult to measure individual output, so workers were paid by the hour or day. The omnipresence of the factory clock brought with it the idea that one is exchanging time rather than skill: selling labor-time rather than labor. 17 Workers also lost control over the time they chose to work. The clock became king. It controlled not only activities at work but how much time was spent working.18 It is hard to underestimate the impact the clock has had on the economy. Some people argue that is was the clock not the steam engine that was the key machine of the industrial age. The argument is: “Rapid developments in synchronization were responsible for page 3 organizations of the industrial revolution being able to display such high levels of functional specialization.”19 Why do we say time is money? In a world where people are paid by the time they work, time became money. Where people are paid based on time, management and workers tend focus on time instead of results as the basis of their working agreement. Today, work is different. In the Industrial Age, workers were paid by the hour for a certain amount of production. If you worked 8 hours, you were expected to produce twice as much as if you worked 4 hours. And it made sense. It was based on a mathematical equation consisting of time and rates of production. Productivity was tied to time. But what about today’s Knowledge Workers? If we spend 8 hours thinking up new innovative ideas will we have twice as many as if we’d spent 4 hours? Or maybe we’d have the same number of ideas but they’d be twice as good? The answer is obviously no to both questions. In an ideal world, Knowledge Workers are paid to achieve a certain result whether it takes 4 hours or 400 hours.20 In the industrial age, work was time critical. Now work is content critical. At the turn of the century we wanted people to do one thing again and again, now we need people to answer emails, keep track of business events, type their own memos and deliver results all at the same time. When a factory worker left work, his day was over. Now almost everyone carries a mobile phone, and rare is the executive that never works at home. We don’t really need more time from our people, we need more results. To get better results, we need to stop thinking of time as if all our workers are down on the factory floor. Unfortunately, in practice we still tend to measure productivity by time spent. Managers find they cannot easily or directly measure work output or the involvement of knowledge workers, so they turn to work hours as an indicator of both productivity and commitment. Moreover, managers recognize that knowledge work is both interdependent and open-ended and that those they manage often need each other to complete their work on time. Managers therefore assume it is best for everyone to be present as much of the time as possible and judge knowledge workers accordingly. As a result, the managerially valued knowledge worker in today’s world needs to show total devotion to work. The grueling schedules that used to be typical only of top corporate management and self-employed people are becoming common in one occupation after another. Corporate Can time be changed? Time can be changed; here are a few historical examples of time changes France: A 10 day week In 1793, the new ruling assembly in France introduced a revolutionary calendar that changed the number of days in a week from 7 to 10. The new calendar was created to embody the new values of secularity and rationality. It was meant to mark a change from an “’an old age of ignorance’’ to ‘’ a new age of reason’’. Initially people found the changes difficult. But over time they became accustomed to the change. This system remained in place until 1805, when there was reconciliation between Napoleon and the church. If there had been no change France might still have a 10 day week. Incidentally, in Russia weeks were changed from 7 days to 6 days for almost 40 years.1 Kelloggs: a 30 hour work week Inspired by reports that a six-hour shift increased productivity at an English soap company, Kellogg Co. founder W.K. Kellogg changed cerealplant production schedules from three eight-hour shifts to four six-hour shifts in 1930. The company found that the shorter workday influenced employees to work harder and more efficiently. The results included drastic reductions in overhead costs, labor costs, and the number of workrelated accidents. Unit cost of production “is so lowered we can afford to pay as much for six hours as we formerly paid for eight,” Kellogg boasted in a newspaper in 1935.2 1. Zerubauel, E. (1981). Hidden rhythms: Schedules and calendars in social life. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 2. Six-Hour Shifts Satisfied Kellogg's Appetite For Productivity:
  4. 4. Best Practice · Time Lessons for today’s managers lawyers, investment bankers, computer programmers, and many other professionals are now expected to work seventy- or eighty-hour weeks routinely, with extra effort during particularly hectic times.21 22 23. Today’s always on, always in, always working mentality, can be seen in the way many organizations would answer some simple questions. Question. How does the organization know managers are doing their jobs and that they are making the best possible decisions? Answer: Because they are spending every moment at it and thus working to the limits of human possibility. Question: When has a manager finished the job? Answer: Never. Or at least, hardly ever. There is always something more that could be done.”24 In an age of burnout, falling productivity and declining worker moral do we really want to stay married to measuring results by the clock? Chances are you’ll say you don’t see another way. If changes in our view of time happened due to economic need, there is no reason to believe, we can’t change again. page 4 stated goal was to “transform task orientated nomads into willing wage workers of the future “26. As modern manager, we’d have every reason to believe these changes would increase productivity. They did over the short term, and the standard of living increased. What also happened was the creation of a 2 time culture. There was clock time at work, and task time at home. On the downside, there was a shift away from getting things done to counting hours. People today still talk about Lakota time vs. white time: “Being Lakota, I like the way we’ve always done things. In the Lakota way you could work… every day, and in the end, we had something that belongs to us. In the white way, you have to work for everything, but you get just a little back. Like they have a time schedule. In the Lakota way, we go by our own time, but it gets done.” 27 To show how time cultures can be changed and the impact of some of these changes, I would like to share the experience of the Lakota Indians. Over time, work lost its meaning for many people and productivity fell. Worse yet, is the impact these changes had and continue to have on the informal way of getting things done. Working on the clock, people started to leave at 5 regardless of whether their work was done. Pressured to get more done in less time, time for social contact was less available. Before, things got done when they needed to be done, now things didn’t get finished and people felt stressed by the deadlines. The Lakota Experience This is the same problem managers around the world face every day. i.e. What is the best way to get things done in my organization? The Lakota Indians are a small Indian tribe from the regions of South Dakota and western Minnesota. The word Lakota means “considered friends” or “alliance of friends”. Crazy Horse is probably the most famous Lakota Indian. As some of you know, he was one of the chiefs that defeated Custer at little bighorn. As a group, the Lakota are proud and committed to building their community. Our story of the Lakota starts and ends with a series of lessons for modern day managers. We will see how working by the clock can hurt productivity, and worker satisfaction. At the turn of the century life on the Lakota reservation was far from prosperous, but not uncomfortable. The time culture could be best described as polychronic, task orientated. People did many things at once, but didn’t pay much attention to the clock. Work got done when it needed to be done. There was no artificial time line or moment in the day separating work time and home time; they seemed to flow in and out of one another. The Lakota view of time was simple. “Time was never a specific minute, but rather spaces of time, like early morning, just afternoon or just before midnight. The real meaning of time could be summed up by the phrase “nake nula waun yelo’’ loosely translated it means: “I am ready for whatever, any place, any time, always prepared’’. When work needed to be done, people were prepared to work late in the fields or stay up until 3 am to finish goods to be sold at market. When no work needed to be done, they didn’t work. Policy makers saw an opportunity to improve things by installing a western time ethic and a respect for the clock. This viewpoint is clear in a policy note written in the early 20s. “No government employee should encourage the Indians to continue their old time customs… it is the duty of all employees to encourage the Indians to take up the customs and practices of the lives of civilized people “25. Subsidies were introduced to encourage the transformation of existing businesses and creation of new businesses run by the clock. Instead of being paid for the work done, workers started to be paid for their hours worked. Children were targeted with education programs. The Companies and organizations on the reservation have dealt with these issues in different ways. In virtually every organization they keep track of the time employees are at work, but some have realized the “ old ways’’ of managing time could be brought back. In these organizations, workers and management agree on what needs to be done and employees are given the freedom to do it on their own time schedule. Task time is being revived and “wasted time” for social interactions encouraged. These companies are finding it easier to recruit and retain employees and productivity is going up. What they have learned, is how to rebuild a time culture. For the Lakota, the right time culture is probably less strict and more informal than what would work in your organization. The barriers between work and home time are weak to non-existent. The length of the workdays expand and contract depending on the tasks at hand. Work happens where the people are, rather that in an exclusive setting designated as the “work place’’28. With a better balance between work and life, economic opportunities are being built on improved social contacts. People are feeling more pride in their work and getting more done than when all their efforts were being measured by the clock. Looking at the Lakota experience, we can gain insights into solutions that might work in other groups/organizations. Before drawing conclusions, let’s look at what we know about time, and quickly review some other case studies showing how time cultures have been changed in other organizations. As we move forward, the important questions that need to be answered are: 1. What do we really know about time? 2. Can time cultures be changed? 3. If they can, what should you do?
  5. 5. Best Practice · Time Lessons for today’s managers What do we know about time? In the business world there isn’t a single book about time, but in the social science a lot has been learned. (Note: Time culture is different than time management. Bookshops are filled with books on time management.) What follows is a broad summary of research presented in hundreds of books and articles. This summary is not exhaustive, but meant to show how important time cultures are in our work lives. Time is subjective: There is the old expression. “Time flies when you are having fun”. In the western world time is typically viewed as linear and constant. Recent research has shown time is not really constant. In time research, the constant aspect of time has been called the “filled duration’’. Filled durations are those times where the individual is occupied or active. The lengths of these times are estimated as longer when compared to empty durations. A disliked or empty activity such as waiting in line is usually found to take longer. Things we like to do go quicker29. Forcing employees to put in the time when nothing needs to be done is a sure way to hurt motivation. It will also make their days seem longer. Stopping time: Researchers have looked at how top performers “stop time” when they need to. Top level tennis players talk about how they can see the lines on a ball during a critical point. In a fascinating study of people in high stress jobs like fireman and fighter pilots, these people often talked about how “time stood still’’ at critical times. With time frozen, they considered large amounts of information and selected among alternatives30. In my work with leading advertising agencies I have seen people take off their watches when a big creative project needs to get done. When I asked why, they said they didn’t want their thinking to be interrupted by the passage of time. In their own way they were stopping time to get their work done. In our daily work lives we need to look at ways we can prevent the passage of time from getting in the way of the work we need to get done. We need time to learn and make good decisions: To make good decisions, we need to take time to reflect on past decisions, and think conceptually when making future decisions. If we’re under the gun all the time this becomes impossible. Without time we don’t learn from the past and we are left making the same bad decisions over and over again. In her book, learning from “Experience through Reflection” Marilyn Wood clearly shows we need time to think and reflect. For her, the right process is 4 steps (1) articulation of a problem; (2) analysis of the problem; (3) formulation and testing of a tentative theory to solve the problem; and (4) final test of the hypothesis31. Additional research has shown that for learning to take place individuals must reflect on prior experiences, build on positive feelings, deal with negative feelings and re-evaluate based on those reflections32. Some business legends such as Fidelity manager, Peter Lynch, have suggested their employees need to slow down so they can make rational decisions. 33 The business lesson is simple. If we want good decisions, we sometimes need to take time to make them. page 5 Research has shown as deadlines shorten, goal difficulty increases, which subsequently increases performance. However, this time pressure relationship only holds for low to mild levels. When looking at a full range of tasks, the overall relationship between deadline length and performance is more complex. Performance increases as deadlines shorten, but beyond some limit increased deadline pressure reduces rather than increase performance.35 The impact of deadlines on performance Performance Flexible deadline Tight deadline Low Task complexity Very High As managers, we need to be careful with the goals we set. Always on, always under stress employees will either start to ignore goals or wither under the stress. Imagine for a minute you are the owner of a prize race horse. Would you run him as hard as you could everyday or would let him save some energy for the big and important races? Even your top employees need some ‘’down-time’’ to be able to perform when you need them to perform. Flexible time and hours can build productivity, but be careful. Research has shown employees are willing to exert extra effort in exchange for flexible time. In a large Pharmaceutical industry study it was shown flex time increased productivity by 10%36 and similar results have been found in other industries. Yet, the use of flex time is actually falling. Why: the benefits are often short lived. Flex time changes from a solution to real issues, to an entitlement37. It is my personal opinion that any large scale move to flex time is doomed to fail over the long run. As flex time becomes an entitlement, the extra effort employees will contribute will decline. At the same time, the number of issues caused by reduced employee interaction will increase. It is important to remember that the sum of individual productivity is not the same as the group or organizations results. A group of highly effective individuals is not the same as an effective team. In work with clients, I recommend allocating task and clock time based on level in the organization, type of work being performed and past performance. Allocating clock time and task time Level of responsibility clock time Low Middle High Time pressure and deadlines can be good and bad. Under stress people often think faster and come up with creative solutions. There is ample research which confirms Parkinson’s Law: “Work expands and contracts to fill the time available.” By changing time horizons we can change the perceptions of time available and the intensity of work done. Complexity of work When tasks are simple, deadlines can help. Clear time driven objectives can build clarity. Deadlines can motivate individuals by providing direction, and stimulate persistent effort. 34 What does not work is unrealistic deadlines and too much time pressure when people are trying to do something difficult. High Low Low Middle High Past Performance More task time More clock time task time
  6. 6. Best Practice · Time Lessons for today’s managers Fragmentation and the rise of instantaneous time Anyone with a mobile phone or access to email knows time isn’t what it used to be. People can now work anywhere and anytime. And they often do. This is blurring the boundaries of work and home life. At the same time decision horizons are being compressed. Faster communication demands faster reactions, allowing less time for reflection. We are attracted to the convenience of being technologically connected in ‘real-time’, yet we are often overwhelmed by the increased demands that come with being wired. In this respect, our ‘real-space’ is increasingly being crowded out by the network of digital devices at our fingertips –e-mail, cell phones, voice-mails, palm pilots, and the Internet. Enticed by the increases in efficiency that these real-time technologies offer, we also tend to feel more stressed out by the increasing demands made on our time and attention.38 Whereas telephones and fax machines reduced human response times from months, weeks and days to that of seconds, advanced computer technologies contracts them into nanoseconds, to even times of a billionth of a second. Contemporary social and organizational practices are based on time-frames that lie beyond conscious human experience. Time is organized at speeds beyond the feasible realm of human consciousness.39 In a world of information overload it is important not to confuse motion and action with results. Thinking about the past is important in our ability to think about the future. In the early 80s, an important study was run with CEOs of high tech companies. The CEOs were split into 2 groups. Half were asked to first think about events that happened in the past and then about events that might happen in the future. The other half were asked to think about events in the opposite order, future first, then past. Then all the CEOs were asked to indicate when in the past or the future each event occurred or would occur. Paradoxically, the CEOs who thought about past events first, tended to then think about events further into the future (4 years further), than the CEOs who thought about future events first. Further, thinking about future events first did not seem to increase the length of time into the past that events were considered. Putting these results together indicates that thinking about the past was the causal element: thinking about the past first is key to thinking about the future. Other studies have confirmed this relationship suggesting strongly that thinking about things further into the past will lead to thinking about things further into the future.40.41 42 43 If you want to get a better view of the future, the past needs to be brought into the discussion. Time cultures are built locally. Anyone working in a large organization knows different cultures emerge at local levels. We all look for meaning in the work we do and create ways to make meaning. A good example of this can be found in the work done by Roy studying factory workers. He showed how workers made their experiences tolerable by putting meaning into their essentially meaningless days. In his studies workers punctuated their days with ‘times’’ – each of these times was a moment for social interaction. These times went by many different names: window time, break time, coke time and even banana time. He showed how these workgroups, with the most externally determined task processes, consistently created their own individual time cultures.44 In our day to day work lives these differences are often easy to see. There are departments and even small groups in these departments that have their own concepts of time. For middle managers the implications are important. There is no need to wait for large scale organization change. Changes can happen in the smallest spheres of influence. page 6 Speed is Relative The pace of life around the world Rank of 31 countries for overall pace of life and for three measures; minutes downtown pedestrians take to walk 60 feet; minutes it takes a postal clerk to complete a stamp-purchase transaction; and accuracy in minutes of public clocks. overall walking postal public pace 60 feet service clock Switzerland Ireland Germany Japan Italy England Sweden Austria Netherlands Hong Kong France Poland Costa Rica Taiwan Singapore United States Canada South Korea Hungary Czech Republic Greece Kenya China Bulgaria Romania Jordan Syria El Salvador Brazil Indonesia Mexico 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 3 1 5 7 10 4 13 23 2 14 8 12 16 18 25 6 11 20 19 21 14 9 24 27 30 28 29 22 31 26 17 2 3 1 4 12 9 5 8 14 6 18 15 10 7 11 23 21 20 19 17 13 30 25 22 29 27 28 16 24 26 31 1 11 8 6 2 13 7 3 25 14 10 8 15 21 4 20 22 16 18 23 29 24 12 17 5 19 27 31 28 30 26 Source: The pace of life in 31 countries. Levine, Robert American Demographics; Nov97, Vol. 19 Issue 11, p20, 5p Organizations are created and sustained to do things. As change occurs over time, time is a critical underlying aspect of all organizational cultures. How time is partitioned, scheduled and used has dramatic and subtle influences on organizations and the people in them. 45 3 Case studies follow that show how changes can be made in a company’s time culture and some of the ways these changes can change the organization.
  7. 7. Best Practice · Time Lessons for today’s managers Changing time cultures: 3 case studies Time and how it is managed is a central aspect of organizational effectiveness. The dominant view of time in organizations today was developed for workers at the time of the industrial revolution. Changing these cultures can change an organization. Case 1, Marriot: Changing a culture of face time 46 page 7 family”—a decree that’s still talked about within Samsung. The question was how to make the change. The work environment at Samsung was little different from other Korean companies. Employees came in early and left late. People were rewarded for putting into marathon hours regardless of the quality of their output. Realizing this was part of the problem along with the fact his workers were wasting countless hours in traffic jams every morning and evening, a new idea was developed. Let’s get workers in early and let them leave a bit earlier. Changing the time culture was identified as a tool for change. Woody Allen has been quoted as saying “80% of success is just showing up’’. At the Marriott corporation, showing up was a prerequisite for success. The company had a deeply ingrained culture of ‘face time’ – the more hours you put in, the better. The company was facing issues with employee moral and recruitment of new employees. Employees accustomed to working long hours were now asked to start two hours earlier at 7 am and leave exactly at 4 in the afternoon. In the new 7-4 system, individual workers were assessed by how much they could achieve in a constrained period of time. The company put a greater emphasis on the tasks accomplished, not the hours worked. The internal issue could perhaps be best summarized by the remarks of an employee. “I don’t mind working hard, but I also want you to recognize that I have a life outside this company”. In a study among employees, they estimated they spent 11.7 hours a week on low value work. There were also lots of signs of employee burnout. A decision was made that something needed to be done. The company wasn’t ready to sacrifice customer service, but the company needed to work on the issue of face time. Instead of carrying on working in the evening, employees were pushed to finish their work by 4. In this new system, they began to recognize the importance of team-working in order to meet deadlines. Before the 7-4 system, low level employees had to work hard until they finished their tasks, following their manager’s commands. It was common practice that subordinates were pressed to finish their duties, while their managers were waiting for the tasks to be completed by their subordinates47. A new policy was created which said employees were expected to be at work when they were needed and go home when they weren’t. The message was “Do whatever it takes to get your job done, but be flexible in how you do it. If last week was a hellish week and there is nothing that needs to be done, take some time off to recharge your batteries.” With one change (albeit a large change) the company was able to change its focus to quality, punctuality and teamwork. There was also a side benefit of better working conditions for employees. Changing a culture takes more than the creation of a new policy. Senior managers were told they needed to be seen leaving early. And they were encouraged to talk about their family lives. They needed to tell stories about how great is was to leave a bit early when they weren’t needed so they could go to a movie with their kids. Change didn’t happen over night, but it did happen. The number of hours people spent at work went down slightly, but there was no change in customer complaints. There is also some evidence the change is reducing unwanted turnover and helping bring in new hires. Some key results are summarized below: The impact of the Marriott face time program Pre vs. post results Time spent doing low value work (hrs) Job too demanding Belief hours not results count I feel drained at the end of the day Pre 11.7 hrs 77% 43% 73% Post 6.8 hrs 36% 15% 56% Case 2, Samsung: Working 9-9 is not the way to make a living In the early 90’s, Samsung, was a company in trouble. Their products weren’t selling and consumers were losing confidence in the quality of their products. Chairman Kun-Hee Lee identified many different issues, but one he wanted to focus on was the concept of quantity at the expense of quality. He declared: “[If we don’t change] we will become a third-rate company. We must change no matter what.” He implored workers to “change everything except your wife and At the same time as the 7-4 system many other changes were made, so it is hard to isolate the exact impact. What is known is the change in time culture had an important impact on the organization. Since the introduction of this program, Samsung has come a long way from its humble, homely past. Samsung is now the world leader in CDMA cell phones; it’s battling Motorola for the number-two spot, behind Nokia, in total handsets sold; it also tops the global markets for color televisions, flash memory, and LCD panels—key battlegrounds in its quest to one day dominate the digital era. Samsung is also the world’s most profitable tech company. 48 Case 3, Best Buy ROWE: Results Oriented Work Environment If you watch the news, or read the popular press, chances are you have heard about Best Buys Rowe program. ROWE stands for Results Oriented Work Environment. This program is the brainchild of some renegades in Best Buy’s HR department. The program policy is easy to understand: “people are free to work wherever they want, whenever they want, as long as they get their work done.” How it happened is a good story. Just like Marriott. the culture was one of face time. Managers were seen judging employee performance on how much they saw them, vs. how much they did. Some saw a dangerous, life-wrecking cocktail in the making: the always-on worker now also had to be always in. The HR team wanted to see if a change could be made so that people focused on results instead of number of hours at the office. The HR department introduced the ROWE program in stages. Stage 1: They worked hard to create effective business metrics. With no metrics in place, managers had little choice but to judge performance based on effort.
  8. 8. Best Practice · Time Lessons for today’s managers page 8 Lessons from the Lakota and other case studies Stage 2: With metrics ready, they looked for departments that wanted to give the program a try. Once these pilots were up and running they worked hard to quantify the results. Importantly, they did not tell top management. Stage 3: The program was expanded to other departments. When they had enough results they presented a business case to top management. Looking at the Lakota Experience, there are 4 important insights for modern day managers Insight 1: We need to be aware of the differences between task time and clock time We all have both types of time in our life. In the Lakota context an imposition of clock time had a negative impact. Important things didn’t get done, work lost some of its meaning and it caused social issues. Letting people focus on the work that needs to get done instead of the hours they spend at work is likely to improve productivity. In the discussion about work among the Lakota, Marriott and Best Buy one can see task time is a bit more human and natural. We need to realize task time is important and allow it to flourish if we want a happy effective work force Looking back, part of the programs success is surely the way it was started. It began as a covert guerrilla action that spread virally and eventually became a revolution. So secret was the operation that Chief Executive Brad Anderson only learned the details two years after it began transforming his company. Anderson believes “ROWE was an idea born and nurtured by a handful of passionate employees,” a large part of its success is “It wasn’t created as the result of some edict.” Insight 2: In modern day society, the border between home life and work life is fading The results of the program have been impressive • There are significant declines in voluntary turnover • In pre/post measurements, departments showed an average increase in productivity of 35%. With mobile phones we can be reached anywhere anytime, via email and the internet we can (and often do) work at 2 in the morning. Yet we still focus on measuring the time people spend in the office. A better solution would be a balance of clock and task time. Should it really matter when work gets done as long as it gets done? As business manager, I would be happy to give up a bit of Today, all 4000 staffers in the Best Buy headquarters are on ROWE. and the company is looking to expand out to the stores. A test… How many things do you like to do at once How do you/ your department and organization compare ? Monochronic/Polychronic Orientation Scale Please use the following scale to indicate the extent to which you agree or disagree that each statement is true about 1) you 2) your department. and 3) your organization Strongly Somewhat Slightly Slightly Somewhat Strongly Disagree Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Agree Agree (I) We like to juggle several activities at the same time. you depart org. 1 pt 1 pt 1 pt 2 pt 2 pt 2 pt 3 pt 3 pt 3 pt 4 pt 4 pt 4 pt 5 pt 5 pt 5 pt 6 pt 6 pt 6 pt 7 pt 7 pt 7 pt (I) We would rather complete an entire project everyday than complete parts of several projects. you depart org. 7 pt 7 pt 7 pt 6 pt 6 pt 6 pt 5 pt 5 pt 5 pt 4 pt 4 pt 4 pt 3 pt 3 pt 3 pt 2 pt 2 pt 2 pt 1 pt 1 pt 1 pt (I) We believe people should try to do many things at once. you depart org. 1 pt 1 pt 1 pt 2 pt 2 pt 2 pt 3 pt 3 pt 3 pt 4 pt 4 pt 4 pt 5 pt 5 pt 5 pt 6 pt 6 pt 6 pt 7 pt 7 pt 7 pt When (I) we work by ourselves, (I) we usually work on one project at a time. you depart org. 7 pt 7 pt 7 pt 6 pt 6 pt 6 pt 5 pt 5 pt 5 pt 4 pt 4 pt 4 pt 3 pt 3 pt 3 pt 2 pt 2 pt 2 pt 1 pt 1 pt 1 pt (I) We prefer to do one thing at a time. you depart org. 7 pt 7 pt 7 pt 6 pt 6 pt 6 pt 5 pt 5 pt 5 pt 4 pt 4 pt 4 pt 3 pt 3 pt 3 pt 2 pt 2 pt 2 pt 1 pt 1 pt 1 pt Add up the points for you, your department, and your organization, and Divide each total by 5. Then plot both the scores on the scale below. Monochronic Polychronic 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 you depart org. The lower the score (below 4.0) the more monochronic your organization or department; and the higher the score, (above 4.0) the more polychronic. Adapted from: Bluedorn, A. C., Kaufman, C. F., & Lane, P. M. 1992. How many things do you like to do at once? An introduction to monochronic and polychronic time. Academy of Management Executive, 6(4): 17–26
  9. 9. Best Practice · Time Lessons for today’s managers control if I could get employees thinking like the Lakota: ready for whatever, any place, any time, always prepared. Like at Marriott, I like my employees’ batteries to be charged and ready to deal with important business challenges. Insight 3: In our work world we are losing the human contact. Our time culture might be part of problem. People talk less and email more. In the Lakota case, a move to clock time resulted in people not investing enough time in social relationships. At Samsung, clock time was kept, but the focus was changed to results delivered in a specific time. When our employees are stressed for time, and unhappy at home these issues creep into the workplace. If we give a bit of freedom, employees are likely to be happier with their work. Happier employees, encouraged to work together is a sure fire way to improve social contact at work. Insight 4: A lot of research has shown average workers feel overworked. Yet, the reality is we are not working more than we did before. The issue in my opinion is a growth in polychronic time (time where we are expected to do many things at once). The key to dealing with polychronic tasks is relaxing and being a bit flexible. If we want and expect people to multi-task at work, taking some of the clock time pressure away would be a big help. What now… The most important take-outs of this discussion are: (1) Time is important and (2) you don’t need to be the CEO to make changes in your organization’s time culture. If you want to make changes you need to realize it won’t be easy. Our time cultures are built on the way we have been educated, and socialized. “Time is money” and “long hours are good’’ are so deeply ingrained in many work cultures that change won’t come easy. But to change we need to understand. page 9 I hope this discussion has helped show how each of us can create our own time cultures. Concepts of time have been changed in the past to meet needs of the market. Today’s markets are changing again, so we can assume what time means will change again. Some say the future is one of flex time, but the reality is flex time is on the decline (10% down over the last 3 years). 49. Others say, time cultures in modern organizations need to be modeled after system like the ROWE program at Best But. Chances are you could talk to 10 consultants and each would have “the solution’’ for your organization. The reality is there is no “one size fits all” solution. We don’t need flex time, task time, arrow time or any specific type of time. As business leaders we do need to look for ways to develop the right time culture for our organizations. My guess is many of you would be happy with a time culture where: (1) people are given time to recharge when time pressures are down, (2) employee moral is high and (3) and like the Lakota are ready for whatever, any time , any place, always prepared. Changes in the content of work are changing how we need to manage. What worked when we were managing factory workers will not work for today’s knowledge workers. Today’s managers need to think about the time cultures they want in their organizations. When your employees talk with people around the world and in companies with different views of time, their views on time will change. Change is already happening. As usual the question comes down to leading change or reacting to change. If you want to have time on your side, now is the time to think about changing the view of time in your organization. We need to start with an understanding of our cultural codes of time. We need to uncover the invisible, so we can question some of our core assumptions about time: • Is time money? Or would it be better to talk about results are money? • Is face time important? Or would you prefer to have employees ready to go when they are needed? • Many of us are stress junkies and we link a busy calendar to being effective. Are we confusing motion with results? About the Author: Bryan Cassady is a strategic business consultant. Before starting his consulting practice he set up 9 successful businesses in 8 different countries. As a consultant he has worked in over 20 different countries. He is currently doing research at the KU Leuven University on the multi-cultural issues of management.
  10. 10. Best Practice · Time Lessons for today’s managers page 10 Notes and references 1 3 4 Butler, Richard (1995) Time in Organizations: Its Experience, Explanations and Effects. Organization Studies (Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG.), Vol. 16 Issue 6, p925, 26p 5 Rapaille, Clotaire (2006) The Culture Code, Random House 6 Shein (1992) Organizational Culture and Leadership, 2d ed. San Francisco: 7 Clark, P (1985). A review of the theories of time and structure for organizational sociology In S.B. Bacharach & S.M. Mitchell (Eds.), Research in the Sociology of Organizations (pp. 35-79).Greenwich, CT: JAI Press. 8 Bluedorn, Allen C.; Standifer, Rhetta L. (2006) Time and the Temporal Imagination. Academy of Management Learning & Education, Vol. 5 Issue 2, p196-206 9 Roland Alan (1988) In Search of Self in India and Japan: Toward a Cross-Cultural Psychology. Princeton University Press 10 Bluedorn, A. C., Kaufman, C. F., & Lane, P. M. (1992). How many things do you like to do at once? An introduction to monochronic and polychronic time. Academy of Management Executive, 6(4): 17–26. 11 Bluedorn, A. C., & Denhardt, R. B. (1988). Time and organizations. Journal of Management, 14: 299–320 12 Adam Barbara (1993). Within and beyond the time economy of employment relations: conceptual issues pertinent to research on time and work Social Science Information, Vol. 32, No. 2, 163-184 13 Hall, E.T. (1983). The dance of life: The other dimension of time. Garden City, NY: Anchor Press. 14 Schein E (1992) Organizational Culture and Leadership San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1992 15 Thompson, E.P. (1967). Time, work-discipline and industrial capitalism. Past and Present, 38, 56-97. 16 Thompson, E.P. (1967). Time, work-discipline and industrial capitalism. Past and Present, 38, 56-97. 17 Hassard, John.(2001) Commodification, construction and compression: a review of time metaphors in organizational analysis: International Journal of Management Reviews, Jun2001, Vol. 3 Issue 2, p131, 10p 18 Landes – (1983 )Revolution in Time: Clocks and the Making of the Modern World DS - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press 19 Mumford, L. (1934). Technics and Civilization. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World. 20 21 Perlow, Leslie A (1998) Boundary Control: The Social Ordering of Work and Family Time in a High-tech Corporation. Administrative Science Quarterly, Jun98, Vol. 43 Issue 2, p328-358 22 Kidder, Tracy (1981). The Soul of a New Machine. New York: Avon Books. 23 Schor, Juliet B (1991). The Overworked American. Basic Books 24 Kanter, Rosabeth M. (1977). Men and Women of the Corporation. New York: Basic Books. p. 65 25 FARC n.d., Rosebud, C.C.F. 13979-1922 26 Littlewood, Alice (1993) Learning to Labor: Native American Education in the UD 1880-1930. In Political economy of North American Indians. John H. Morre, Ed... pp 43-59. Norman: University of Oklahoma press 27 Interview July 3, 2001 in Pickering, K. 2004. Decolonizing Time Regimes: Lakota Conceptions of Work, Economy and Society, American Anthropologist 106(1):85-97 28 Interview July 3, 2001 in Pickering, K. 2004. Decolonizing Time Regimes: Lakota Conceptions of Work, Economy and Society, American Anthropologist 106(1):85-97 29 Mukerjee, R (1990). "Time Technics and Society", in Hassard, J. (Ed.), The Sociology of Time, Macmillan, Hampshire, p. 47. 30 Klein, G. (1998).Sources of Power How People Make Decisions. Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology 31 Daudelin, Marilyn Wood, Learning from Experience through Reflection. Organizational Dynamics, Winter96, Vol. 24 Issue 3, p36-48, 32 Boud David (1993) Using Experience for Learning. Open University Press, 33 Koco, L. (2000, Oct. 23). Slow down, educate clients, Lynch tells NAVA. National Underwriter, 104 (43), pp.3, 46. 34 Locke, E.A., & Latham, G.P (1984). Goal setting for individuals, groups, and organizations. Chicago: Science Research Associates. 35 Peters, L.H, O'Connor, E.J., Pooyon, A., & Ouick, J .C (1984). The relationship between time pressure and performance: A field test of Parkinson's Law. Journal of Occupational Behavior.5, 293-299. 36 Shepard III, Edward M (1996) Flexible work hours and productivity: Some evidence from the pharmaceutical industry. Clifton, Thomas J.; Kruse, Douglas. Industrial Relations, Vol. 35 Issue 1, p123, 17p 37 Dalton, DR, Mesch, (1990) The impact of flexible scheduling on employee attendance and turnover, By: DJ, Administrative Science Quarterly, 1990, Vol. 35 38 Purser, Ronald (2002) Contested presents: critical perspectives on ‘real-time’ management’, in: Richard Whipp, Barbara Adam and Ida Sabelis (Eds.) Making Time. Time and Management in Modern Organizations (pp. 155–67), Oxford: Oxford University Press. 39 Hassard, John (2002). Organization Studies (Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG.), Vol. 23 Issue 6, p885-892, 8p 40 El Sawy, O. A. (1983). Temporal perspective and managerial attention: A study of chief executive strategic behavior. (Doctoral dissertation, Stanford University, 1983). Dissertation Abstracts International, 44(05A): 1556–1557. 41 Bluedorn, A. C. (2000). Time and organizational culture. In N. M. Ashkanasy, C. P. M. Wilderom, and M. F. Peterson (Eds.), Handbook of Organizational Culture and Climate: 117–128. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 42 Bluedorn, A. C., & Ferris, S. P. (2004). Temporal depth, age, and organizational performance. In C. F. Epstein and A. L. Kalleberg (Eds.), Fighting for time: Shifting boundaries of work and social life: 113–149. New York: Russell Sage Foundation. 43 Bluedorn, A. C., & Richtermeyer, G. (2005), August. The timeframes of entrepreneurs. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management. Honolulu, HA. 44 Roy, D.F. (1990). Banana time: job satisfaction and informal interaction. In Hassard, J. (ed.), The Sociology of Time. London: Macmillan. 2
  11. 11. Best Practice · Time Lessons for today’s managers 45 page 11 Schriber, J. B., & Gutek, B. A. (1987). Some time dimensions of work: Measurement of an underlying aspect of organization culture. Journal of Applied Psychology, 72: 642–650 46 Smashing the Clock, Business Week Dec. 11 2006 47 Heejin Lee; Ji-Hwan Lee; Jiman Lee; Chongju Choi. (2005) Time To Change, Time For Change: How Was Time Used To Change A Global Company? By: Academy of Management Proceedings, , pF1-F6, 6 48