Tag Archives: objectives

Second Dimension of Time

“Timespan of intention,” I repeated. “Timespan of effectiveness, timespan of discretion. A new understanding of time?”

“Not at all,” Pablo replied. “Elapsed time and timespan of intention are two measures of time. But, not at all new. Greek language has two words for time, chronos, for elapsed time. And, kairos. Kairos defines time, not as an elapsed measure, but as a story. What are the three elements of every story?”

It did not take me long. “The beginning, the middle and the end,” I replied.

Kairos. What is your story? What is your intention? What is the story of your intention? What is your goal? What is the story of your goal?” Pablo asked. “That is the second dimension of time. It has everything to do with goals and objectives, important measures for every manager.”

Two Dimensions of Time

“Exactly what is timespan, and why does it have a bearing on human endeavor?” I asked.

“Not just human behavior, but all living things, though right now we are focused on humans, the humans that inhabit our companies,” Pablo started. “Think about this. We plan a project and imagine, using our best judgement that the project will be complete within a specified, reasonable amount of time. When the project is finally complete, we now have the actual time elapsed. You must admit, these are concerns for every manager – How long did we intend the project to take, how long did it actually take? Time takes on two dimensions – intentions and actual elapsed time.”

“Okay,” I responded. “So far, I am still you.”

“Most often, when we think about time, we only think about elapsed time. We think about chronos, the measure of elapsed time.”

“A chronometer, like a stopwatch,” I connected.

“A river flows from its source to the sea, governed by gravity, volume, physical obstructions, and the water traveled can be measured in time. Does the river have intentions?”

I took a breath. “No,” I said, wondering if this was a trick question.

“Of course not,” Pablo replied. “Inanimate objects have no intentions, they only have elapsed time, from the source to the sea. We can describe inanimate processes easily within four dimensions, three dimensions of space and one dimension of time, elapsed time. But humans, human behavior, human endeavors require five dimensions, three dimensions of space and two dimensions of time. Elapsed time and the time span of intention.”

The Future Looks Like?

Miriam creeped into the conference so as not to disturb the rest of the meeting. Everyone was working hard on their business plan for 2021. “I’m having a bit of trouble,” she said. “I know all the steps for the plan, but I am just stuck.”

“And step one is what?” I asked. We were working with a structured planning model.

“Step one is to create the vision for my department. And that was easy. I think I got it all captured in a couple of sentences. It’s the rest of the plan that I am having difficulty with.”

“Interesting,” I replied, “that you can capture that much detail in two sentences.”

“Well, you are right,” Miriam confessed. “There isn’t a lot of detail, but I thought it would be better if it was short.”

“Miriam, here is the way the vision part of the plan works. The more detailed it is, the clearer the images are, the easier it is to write the rest of the plan. Instead of two sentences, write two pages. I want to know who your customers are and what services you provide. You probably have more than one customer segment, tell me how they are different and how your services to each are different? Tell me what position you hold in the marketplace, what your market share is? Who are your competitors? Tell me what your competitive advantage is, what are your core competencies? Who are your key personnel, how do you find them, how do you grow them? Tell me about your facilities, your plant? How do you control quality? How do you guarantee performance?”

Miriam left the room with a bit of thinking to do. A couple of days later, I read her vision statement. It contained all the detail we talked about and more. The plan that followed was clear and detailed, all driven by a carefully constructed word picture of the future.

The first step in the plan is vision.

Make Improvement Easy

Nicole had the numbers posted. She was still working side by side with the team, helping on the line, but at least the numbers were posted.

“But, we didn’t make our goal,” Nicole shook her head. “That’s why I was afraid to write the numbers on the white board, before.”

I ignored her body language. “Nicole, I want you to add another number to the board. I want you to post yesterday’s numbers next to the goal numbers. For right now, I just want you to focus your team on improvement over yesterday.”

“Well, that should be easy,” snorted Nicole.

“That’s the point. Make improvement easy. Then focus on it.”

The Curse of a Manager

“You look off-balance,” I said.

Renee shook her head. “Ever since I was promoted to sales manager, things are different. When I was on the sales team, things were exciting, always a new customer, a deal in limbo, a sale that closes, a sale that gets stalled. But there was always action. As sales manager, I only get to hear about that stuff from other people. I get to coach, but I never get to play.”

“What else is different?” I asked.

“When I was a salesperson, I was always focused on the day, or the week, at most a month or a quarter. Sure, I had my annual sales goals, but mostly, I only looked at what was right in front of me.” Renee took a breath. “Now, I live in the world of annual sales goals. My decisions are centered around how many salespeople on the team, which one is going off the rails, gauging whether our sales backlog is within the capacity of operations. Not very exciting stuff. And budgets. I am not just thinking about this year, I have to think about next year. The ops manager wants to invest in some automation and wants to know if I can generate enough sales to pay for it over the next three years.”

“So, the biggest difference is time span. You use to measure your success, or failure by the day or the week. You got constant juice from your deal flow,” I replied. “Now, there is no juice. You are working on goals that won’t be completed for one to two years. Oh, sure, you will soon know whether you are making progress, soon enough, but you won’t hold the result in your hands for quite some time. It’s the curse of a manager.

“But, here’s the thing,” I continued. “If all you ever think about is the next deal, the next customer, if everything you think about is short-term, then thinking about what needs thinking about, never becomes a priority. Planning never happens. Your ability to plan, your ability to think long-term atrophies. Making short moves in the needle is easy. Making large moves in the needle takes time. Most managers are too impatient to do that kind of thinking. They would rather get the juice.”

Good Busy or Bad Busy

“Whew,” Marcy plopped into the chair behind her desk. “What a day?”

“How so?” I wanted to know.

“Lots of things going on. Good things. Everybody was busy. Lots of work on our plate,” she explained.

“Good busy, or bad busy?” I asked.

“It’s always good to have work to do,” Marcy replied.

“How do you know?” I prompted. “The just dessert for hard work is more hard work. How do you know that the increase in activity is good, or not?”

Marcy was just trying to follow the discussion.

“Look,” I said. “Most people allow the events of the day to happen to them. They judge their lives by what happens to them. To be an effective leader, you have to judge whether those events move you toward your purpose or away from your purpose. Good busy or bad busy has to do with purpose. And without a purpose, without an objective, you will have no way to judge.”