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Every four years (almost) on February 29th, we experience the ”leap day”. Since a year (the time for the earth to travel around the sun) is exactly 365,24 days, our Gregorian calendar year creates a small error each year that need to be adjusted (almost) every four years. Yesterday, we celebrated “leap day” and it can be seen as an extra day in our calendar. Great! Today, we take the “leap day” for granted and taken into account in our busy calendar. But what if we would receive extra day per week – not booked in our calendar. How would we use this time – one extra day per week? What does this say about us?

The question is very philosophical but it highlights a question on how we view ourselves and how we view time. A couple of weeks ago, I meet an IT organization trying to transform themselves to better support digital competitiveness. I think most of us can recognize the situation and the cultural resistance the CIO needed to overcome. Why do something different when things are working fine today? What is in it for me? When digging further into the culture, we noticed something quite interesting. Prestige in the management team was to be recognised a valuable person – expressed in participating in all meetings and hence working long hours. There was a correlation between working long hours and being regarded as an important person in the management team. Interesting! However, working long hours was also the main obstacle for driving transformation – as long hours limited the managers ability to see the full picture, analyze the situation and take the right decisions. Time was used to create prestige in the management team – not to create value for business. An extra day a week would with all certainty lead to an extra day of heavy work.

“Time was used to create personal prestige in the management team

– Not to create value for business.”

Why is this question so important? What does it matter how we spend our time – and what we do with an extra day? Well, it says something about what we prioritise and how we intend to get there. The fact is that how we spend our time is in direct proportion to our capabilities to run a (digital) transformation. Transformation requires a change mindset and it is fuelled by an adequate time to reflect over the current situation – and where we are going. The more time spent on operational issues (for example service management) will decrease the necessary cognitive abilities to run change – see the whole picture, analyse and make sound decisions. That is the case!

My point of view is that we need to set the scene for transformation by free up time for change capabilities. We will not get any “free days” but rather have to find ways for free up time in our current way of working. The question is not where to free up time – but how to create a culture that view time differently. To create a cultural environment where value is based on what you actually deliver in terms of change and services – according to expectations. The fact is that if there were only 6 hours per day – the work would be done equally well. The problem is that we use another 3-6 hours/day to continue to dig in the same hole – to no use.

“It all comes back to the fact that many perceive “free time” or “reflection” as something lazy, costly and unprofessional. The perception is that we create value by doing – not by reflecting, analysing or planning. Nothing could be further from the truth!”

The example above could have been taken from a number of IT (and business?) organizations. The way many IT (and business?) view time are a key problem that many management teams face. It all comes back to the fact that many perceive “free time” or “reflection” as something lazy, costly and unprofessional. The perception is that we create value by doing – not by reflecting, analysing or planning. Nothing could more wrong! In today’s fast moving business environment, it is more important than ever to analyse and make the right decisions – based on “reflection time”. “Reflection time” is a key success factor in the digital era.

My recommendations:

  1. What would you do with an extra day per week? Work more? Reflect? Or spend time with your family or friends?
  2. Understand how much of your time is spent on operational topics, and how much is spent on reflecting and learning?
  3. Contact Hans Gillior for a further discussion. Let us understand how time can be used in your team to drive change and value creation.

The fact is that most of us (IT professionals) work in average one day extra per week in overtime to cope with the overwhelming workload. To free up time is for many not possible. The question I ask – are we pending time on the right activities? What is most important – attending another meeting or enabling change? The problem is that we need to free up time to actually answer these question in a good way. That is the paradox of time!