Managing in the Present
Focus: time management and current problems facing a service company
1. Management themes
Read the following text and then discuss the questions below.
Time management has become one of the key issues of the second half of the twentieth century. Managers, grappling with work pressures and deadlines, have come to recognise that time is a precious commodity to be 'saved', 'gained', and not 'wasted' or 'lost'. But if time is a commodity, how then can we best describe, measure and manage it?
To describe and manage it, imagine a line that goes back to the beginnings of creation and continues into the mists of the future. And on that line are a number of significant marks-these separate the past from the present from the future. And within each time zone-past, present and future-we can differentiate periods of time from points of time. For example, the 1980s gave us a period of rapid economic growth; black Monday was a point of sudden financial catastrophe.
How can this brief analysis help the international manager? Firstly, there is the link between past, present and future. In other words, historical performance should be a guide to the future, and the present ought to represent last year's forecast. So change-that which normally differentiates any two periods on our continuum-can be seen as a gradual evolution rather than a dramatic revolution.
Secondly, the use of a time-planning system, on which key points and periods are plotted, enables managers to organise their activities so that bottlenecks can be avoided and deadlines can be met. So stress, where the jobs to be done exceed the available time, can be reduced to an acceptable and productive level.
Does your organisation live in the present? Does it change with the times?
Do you work in a stressful environment? Do you think that time management can reduce stress?
You are going to hear an extract from a meeting between Anna. Brian and Pete, the three partners of Softsys, a small company supplying business software. The company was established two years ago and after a period of rapid growth is trying to consolidate its market position.
As you listen, make notes of the tasks that are agreed and note the partner who is going to do the task.
(A=Anna; P=Pete; B=Brian)
P: I think we all feel that things are getting a little out of control. We're pushing ourselves almost to breaking point and I'm worried that something's going to snap unless we take control of the situation.
B: Exactly. We have to start managing the business-rather than letting it manage us. So what can we do about it?
A: Well, the first thing we can do is to start planning. I mean up to now we have done everything by intuition, but I'd like to know where we plan to be five years from now.
B: That's good-a long-term plan. OK, Pete, are you prepared to start working on it?
P: I can make some notes and circulate them. Then we can discuss them.