We talk about. We think about it. We write about it. We study it, and use it to define the relative position of us, our life, and our current location in the universe.
Sometimes, we even sing about it. The Rocky Horror Picture Show reminded us that time was fleeting when you’re in a Time Warp, whilst Cat Stevens thought it wasn’t Time to make a change, so just relax and take it easy. The eternally wise Mick Jagger knew that Time was indeed on his side.
And sometimes, we even mess around with time. The Romans knew the importance of time, so much that they inserted extra months in the annual calendar, and then blatantly named some after themselves (Julius and Augustus: I’m looking at you). This is why October (8), November (9 – from Latin) and December (10 – like the ‘dec’ in decimal) are not actually the 8th, 9th and 10th months.
A sensible idea, but very poor configuration management. For shame, Julius, for shame.
But you know what really concerns me? That we so carelessly discard the eternal burn of time, like the dust of yesterday’s fire ashes.
You cannot buy Time. That transaction cannot exist. You can’t walk down the high street and pick up two weeks and a packet of crisps. And there is no amount of currency that can be exchanged for a return to yesterday. The Beatles insisted that yesterday, their troubles did indeed seem so far away, and now that those troubles are here, quite frankly, they’d rather go back to yesterday. Sounds like some Project Managers I know…
Mores to the point, even if you could go back to yesterday, there is no such thing as the same time and same place. Sit at your desk, in an office, in a building.
Now fast forward One Earth Year, to the same desk, in the same building, on the same planet. This hulking great lump of rock we are on hurtles through the universe at 30 kms/sec, prescribing a circle of some 950 million kms. But take note: because this planet is ever so gently tilting each year, you will never, ever, ever be in the same time and place again.
Surely that makes every single moment of time, of your life, of mine, the single-most precious resource we have?
Sadly, this is the not case. Cher insisted that ‘if she could turn back time, she would give it all to you.’
What a silly person. If she could turn back time, she should be charging by the Nano-second, to 7 decimal places, not giving it away. Like most of us, me included, she has never stopped to consider Time, and so we never adequately assign a value to time.
In an given Earth year, we lose (or gain: Glass-Half-Full) 104 days for weekends, and another 15-20 in ‘previously-religious-but-now-mostly-commercial’ enforced holidays, along with some ‘I-promise-I-was-really-sick’ days.
The leftover working Earth Year is therefore about 240 days, which when spread over 12 months makes an average of about 20 working days per month.
And here it gets scary: If you fall behind just one of the 48 weeks, you lose about 2% of your annual Time Allocation. How do we recover? We do overtime, generally adding one day per week, say Saturday for example. If we can recover only one day per week, and we have 5 days to make up, it takes 5 weeks to completely recover…
If you fall behind just one day, you lose 5% of your average monthly Time Allocation.
And if you fall behind just one hour, that’s 60 minutes, or 3,600 seconds, well then you have lost 12.5% of your daily Time Allocation.
Yet we so carelessly discard this most precious resource, as easily as exhaling a breath or blinking an eye. What does that mean in real terms?
Lets take a contract, say 200 million in annual value, on which we make maybe 6% margin. The 6% margin is worth about 12 million. Our 240 work days contain about 1,800 hours. So the value of each of those 1,800 hours is about 6,600 in local currency. This would be, in effect, like an Automated Teller Machine, from which your CEO withdraws 6,600 cash every single hour.
This is the true value of time. Do the sums on your own projects, and tell me what is the true value of a Critical path? And what therefore is the true value of removing constraints to Time, and clearing bottlenecks to Flow?
What then would be the true value of being able to make real-time decisions?
Framed differently, what is the true cost of NOT being able to make real-time decisions?
What if you had a decision-making system that helped you make real-time decisions? What would that cost?
I feel like the answer is ‘zero’. It potentially costs nothing. You just have to change your mindset, and mindset changes are free. Totally, and completely free.
I guess the next question is then ‘What do you change your mindset to?’