How to Calibrate the Time Span of a Task

Joel laid the list on the table. “It’s weird,” he started, “there were some obvious things, but there were some other things that were more interesting.”

I had asked Joel to make a list of tasks that he had performed as a supervisor and to identify the time span of each task.

“For example,” he continued, “I ran a rolling production schedule out for six weeks. So at any one time, I was working six weeks into the future. But there were some other tasks that were longer than I thought.

“I was in charge of raw materials. We would get in shipments of plastic parts that had to be inspected. There was a time when a whole boatload of parts was defective. In the short term, I had to really move around the production schedule to keep things moving. But in the long term, I had to work with the vendor on getting replacement parts. I had to figure out what we needed to keep in production, then to build back our raw goods inventory.

“Finally, I had to spend time figuring out what the problem was with the parts, working with the vendor to solve the problem. Turns out, there was a bad batch of resin from another supplier. Because of the problem, the resin supplier actually went out of business and our vendor had to find a new source. I know it was his problem, but I had to work with him, trying out and finally certifying a new resin supplier so our parts would hold up. That whole process took five months and my manager expected me to handle it without a lot of direction from her.”

“So the time span for that project was about five months?” I asked.

“Yes, you could call it five months.  Most of the time it is easy, averages out to be fairly short in time frame.  But, when it’s hard, I have to look out further.  Even when it’s hard, it’s still part of my job.”

“So, now in your new job, as a manager, what are some of the tasks that you will be responsible for and what is the time span? Take a look at your job description and meet me back here tomorrow.”

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