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Desert Highway
Thoughtful writing authored and shared by members of of the Thinking Collaborative community to support others on the journey.

Sustaining the Journey

Treating Time as Money

Authored By:

Carrie Usui Johnson and John Matich, Training Associates and members of the Thinking Collaborative Futures Team


June 23, 2014

The authors of “Your Scarest Resource,” suggest that we would never tolerate the waste of 10-25% of the capital of our organizations but that we do so on a daily basis by throwing away time, a scarce and precious resource. By starting an hour long meeting 5 minutes late we have given away 8% of this resource. Imagine how that adds up over the course of a year.

Time is often an issue in schools, like major corporations, because there never seems to be enough to go around to accomplish our goals. The increase in e-mails can result in up to 30,000 a year for some leaders, taking almost an entire day of every week to manage online communication. Many leaders devote two days per week in meetings involving three or more people. Meeting time has increased to about 15% of organizational time due to our ability to hold more meetings with electronic media.

Collaboration requires meeting together, yet the authors’ research suggests that information sharing is the major focus of meetings, not collaboration. 22% of meeting participants report sending 3 or more emails during meetings. What level of engaged participation might that suggest?

So how do we address these issues? One tactic is to do a meeting audit where data is collected on the amount of meeting time within the organization. Data might also be collected on how meeting time is spent. A simple form to collect data could be developed electronically where meeting leaders submitted the information for a one- week period, creating a snapshot of how we use time. Or individuals could be asked to keep a log of their weekly meeting time and a composite could be created categorizing how the time is used.

Once the snapshot is clear, we can begin to rethink and refine how we use our meeting time. Next week’s Sustaining the Thinking Collaborative Journey will offer some thoughts.

Source: Mankins, M, Brahm, C. and Caimi, G. “Your Scarcest Resource.” Harvard Business Review. Volume 92, No.5, May, 2014

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