Optimizing the value of time

Summary : time measurement is a permanent concern for any organization because it’s tightly connected to productivity : the less time needed to perform a task the more productivity and, so, the less costs. That’s not sure at all in the knowledge economy where time and value are loosely tied. If time measurement is not a relevant indicator anymore, the focus has to be put on created value and not necessarily by increasing work intensity which is not key for knowledge worker but rather by working smarter.It will need, among other, to push information depending on its relevance in a given context and a better information sharing, what is the “informational” version of economies of scale.


How many times did we hear, while asking employees to change anything in the way they work and collaborate, comments like “we don’t have time” or, from their managers, “how much time will it take to them ? I don’t want them to waste their time”.

The reason ? Time is easy to measure and, once done, costs are easy to infer. In fact…it’s not that easy. What was true decades ago isn’t anymore. While the nature of work is evolving and people have to perform many tasks in parallel, trying to know how much time was needed for each of them is counter productive. What I often explain by “it never takes a lot of time but it takes time often”. While we’re being asked more and more to collaborate, be available to help others, all these activities are seldom taken into account. The consequence is that the role of a given person in getting a result often remains unknown but, even worse, that this person may be blamed for collaborating or helping others.

So, even if we keep up measuring time because we haven’t found another better right now, it’s now obvious that it’s not a relevant indicator to measure the performance of a person, a team or the whole organization.

Let’s also add that if time is not relevant anymore to track costs, it’s not relevant either to track value creation because it’s not proportional with time anymore. In the knowledge economy a lot of value can be created in 10 minutes by solving a problem or having an idea while days can be spent to do something that’s key in a global project but has few value per se.

Recently talking about organizations that want to move away from email to other tools, I heard :

– “they say employees are spending too much time in emails”

– “And they think they’ll spend less time in social networks ?”

That’s true. On the other hand, if the amount of time spent remains the same and, so, its cost don’t decrease, its value can be increased. Like it’s often said, an information send by email is only accessible by its receivers, if shared it becomes a part of the informational capital of the organization, can be reused and make other people save time. An information may be sent to someone who don’t need it while someone else may need it to perform a valuable task.

So, the question is not time measurement but how to optimize its value.

Some ideas ?

• Make people focus on what create value. Making a decision relying on information creates value while searching information to make a decision is a waste of time. It can be made possible by “analytics” that will suggest relevant content and people as well as robots based on “Watson-like” technologies. By the way, it’s impressive to see how many organizations say they have a sharing problem while, before all, they have a search problem.

• Multiply the value of time by making what’s been produced reusable. It will need sharing mechanisms “in the flow of work” as well as generalized capitalization practices.

• To be completed with you own ideas…

Bertrand DUPERRINhttps://www.duperrin.com/english
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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