We still use the term ‘time management’ even though we all know you can’t manage it. It’s accepted that we don’t have enough time, but we have all there is, as Alec. R. McKenzie wrote.
The truth is that we don’t manage it – we manage ourselves in the context of time available and the people with and through whom we create results. Which makes it a little bit odd that the average time management book doesn’t really address time management for teams.
My favourite ‘AHA!’ moment was when I discovered, for myself, that everything we do we do with, for, or as a result of someone else. Which means that to all intents and purposes, there is only team time management, not personal time management. We rely on the latter term and methodology because it is easier to learn and easier to apply, whereas team time management is halfway to a nightmare.
Getting other people to fall in with our plans is occasionally the biggest challenge to our own results. So why try?
The simple answer is – we have to, for the reason outlined in ‘;my’ discovery. I repeat – everything we do we do with, for, or as a result of someone else. Everything.
Try and think of anything that doesn’t. And before you think “I’ve got one!”, remember that any infrastructure, equipment, location, tool or other resource is the result of ‘someone else’ either designing, supplying, selling, building or lending you something, or even merely opening the doors to somewhere you’re using to help you achieve your outcome.
They influence your time use.
You may not realise it, but when you make appointments you are already executing on team time management. You have liaised (even if through a computer) with another party to make sure that your combined interests are executed upon at the same time.
But we rarely do that outside an ‘appointment’ system. We turn up for work and make phone calls expecting an immediate response. We even expect immediate responses to emails and texts, which is a societal silliness if ever I saw one. “I plan to MAKE my calls between 0815 and 0900, so all other people must plan to TAKE phone calls in that same period.” But life isn’t like that.
(As an aside, I am also extremely amused when people have 20 minute text conversations that would have taken 30 seconds in a phone call. Do YOU do that?)
The simple truth is that managing teams’ time can be quite hard. But it doesn’t have to be.
Team time management is easiest within a close kit, geographically convenient situation. People can talk and arrange their plan for the day around each other, but that requires one pre-condition.
You have to know what your goals are, as do your colleagues.
Once that is done, planning a day around each others’ needs is easy. If you have no idea, the day is spent changing priorities, interrupting each other, rejigging plans and procrastinating.
Inter-departmental team time management is slightly more complicated but, looked at logically, not much. Again, the pre-requisite is having a knowledge of what our department’s objectives are, but then designing a communications strategy whereby a time and method is created which allows the separate units to help each other in achieving those objectives. Police call them daily briefings, hold them at a certain time of day (usually), and hold them about 30 minutes after the start of the day to allow attendees to identify their objectives for the day so that they can communicate them to those other people/teams/resources.
One thing is essential, however.
Once the teams have had that meeting and designed their day, leave them the hell alone to get on with it.
Otherwise you completely undermine the effectiveness of the process, the morale and involvement of the team members, and the ultimate success of the plan.
In conclusion, then – plan your tie with an awareness that there are people absent that your plans will have an effect upon; then involve those others in a spirit of co-operation, utilising a systematic approach for the necessary communication required.
Already doing that? Look again at your system and see if it can be improved – involve the other teams in that conversation, try the results for a month and then have an inter-team review of what’s working and what isn’t.
That will ‘save’ time. Hionest.