There are many experts on time management that I see used periodically by A/E and environmental firms. These people are brought in from the outside to help train our principals, PMs, and technical and design staff members so they can better juggle the many demands on their time. Whether or not any of this works I won’t even attempt to determine here. What I DO know, however, is that much of the time of our key people is already spoken for. There are demands that are placed on one simply for being a part of the organization. Some of these take a LOT of time and are not good uses of that time. These activities work against effective time management. Here are some examples:Dumb marketing meetings. We’ve all sat through ‘em. They are usually predominated by endless reviews of every opportunity known to the marketing department, most of which are not relevant to you, the attendee, and all of which you could have learned about through a simple electronically distributed report. Stupid salary setting/review meetings. These are the meetings where someone in Houston gets to weigh in on what someone in the Albuquerque office whom they have never met gets for a raise this year. Makes no sense. Salaries ought to be set by each employee’s supervisor within the context of an overall salary increase budget. Boring financial meetings. These are the ones where every expense, every utilization statistic, and every account receivable are reviewed. Again, all of this information should be available to all participants through reports, and a two-hour meeting could be shortened to 10-15 minutes to deal with questions or special issues. Futile scheduling meetings. I say “futile” because my experience is that in most A/E firms we can set up schedules ‘til the cows come home, and they all go out the window the moment a demanding client makes new demands on us. Pointless time-recording and review procedures. Ninety percent of firms have too many unbillable accounting codes people can charge time to and have too many task, phase, and activity codes for their billable jobs. This complexity wastes everyone’s time from the individual time recorder through accounting through management. More time is wasted by managers who have to review and approve all time charges for their people.Again, why can’t a machine tell you whether or not “Sally” has sufficient accumulated vacation time to take the day off and go to Branson with her teenage daughter? It’s just ridiculous that registered engineers and architects are spending their precious time on stuff like this. Unnecessary forms. Some firms make you go through the wringer to request a bereavement leave, to buy a new laptop battery charger for someone who works for you, or to request an employee be allowed to go to a half-day seminar. Most of these things should simply be left to the employee’s supervisor and the forms eliminated. Time-wasting e-mails. Why do some people always hit “reply to all” with every e-mail they send? More than half of these e-mails are a complete waste of everyone’s time. It always makes me mad. Or what about firms that still don’t have spam filtering on their incoming messages, meaning all 115 of their employees spend countless wasted hours deleting 382 e-mails a week. Impossible filing schemes. I read somewhere once that the average design professional wastes about 14% of their time simply looking for stuff. I just don’t understand why more companies don’t tackle this one and get their filing systems— for everything, both electronic and hard copy— organized. Until we start dealing with these kinds of time-wasting activities, there’s no way any amount of “time management” is going to make any appreciable difference. Originally published 06/27/05
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