Management may have the clocks, but we’ve got the time!

“If it weren’t for the last-minute, a lot of things wouldn’t get done.” – Michael S. Traylor

There’s an old saying in business: “Time is money”, which obviously refers to the need for greater productivity and output in a shorter amount of time, otherwise money is lost. And in the business world we are surrounded by references to time. Time and motion studies, widgets per hour, deadlines, annual reviews, quarterly reviews, time clocks, time and expense sheets, aged inventory, days of inventory backlog, Time to value (TtV), average call waiting time, average call handling time, timeline, and numerous other time references.

We all know time is important, time is money and time is often critical.  But an interesting question is: who controls the time? And this is especially critical in business.

Management has the clocks . . . 

A plan is what, a schedule is when. It takes both a plan and a schedule to get things done.” – Peter Turla

If businesses operate to a schedule, then it is management who sets the schedule. In most organizations, deadlines are set at the top and passed down into the organisation, much like military orders.

There’s many a slip between the cup and the lip!

The problem is, a printed schedule or deadline is not a guarantee that the output will be delivered on time! A schedule is just a schedule, it’s those entrusted with execution (the real work) that determine the outcome. And here we begin to find the real issue, management may have the clocks,

. . . but employees have the time!


Execution is a key competitive advantage. Being able to deliver to a cost budget and time schedule helps a company get to market first with a new product or service, or build superior customer loyalty by delivering when promised.  But the facts suggest that on-time execution of a promised deliverable is rare.  Study after study confirms that some 70% of business goals fail to be delivered, not because the goals are too hard, but because of poor execution.

In the value chain from printed schedule to deliverable there are many human touch points and several different functions and departments. And in many cases these touch points and handoffs are not well aligned.

An example.  Many years ago we were asked to improve the claims processing time in an insurance company.  The current average time from filing to claim resolution was 2-3 months. Needless to say customers were angry with the long wait for their claim checks. When we built an “as is” process map of the flow of a single claim from filing to resolution, we found that not only were there several departments and numerous handoffs involved, but the time between completion of one step and passing to another in the chain was often measured in weeks, and most of the time the claim sat in someone’s inbox or in-process tray waiting its turn in line to be processes. Time is money, but only if you understand the process!

When we got all the departments and functions together to review the process map, they were surprised it took so long, didn’t really understand the whole process (just their small section), and then started complaining that it wasn’t their fault since each step had so many individual claims to process there just wasn’t enough TIME in the day.

We listened to the angst for a while, then gave them an assignment to break up into multi-function teams and design a faster process from scratch. After some prodding and encouragement, they came up with a team-based arrangement where one member from each of the various steps in the process were organized together in a group and processed the claim straight away rather than letting claims pile up before being processed.  They even came up with a speedy process for exceptions, that is, where critical information was either needed or missing.

The average claim resolution time was reduced to 8 days!

One of my senior consultants always used to say: “The natives have the maps!”  If you are concerned about time, schedules and execution, I suggest you get those who do the work involved.

Management may have the clocks, but employees have the time!

Written and Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs

Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

John also writes thriller novels

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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