Time: A Resource to Manage or A Source of Opportunity?

Most of the people who attend my seminars are project and program managers. Their work (and probably their personal life too) is oriented by the urgency of due dates. For them, time is a resource, a precious and scarce resource.  Due dates create a useful urgency, but also create stress.  The result is the frequent complaint of being “lost in the weeds,” a topic that I addressed in this article.

We expect strategic thinkers to be future oriented and have a broader “big picture” view of their organization and its environment.  That’s good in theory, but difficult in practice.  I’d like to suggest that part of the solution is to create different thinking habits about time. More specifically,

We need to create some mindspace for the idea that time is a source of opportunity. We have to create a balance between the managerial mindset of time is a resource and the entrepreneurial mindset of time is an opportunity.

Here are a few tips:

  • If you are concerned about due dates for your project, ask about time in a more subtle way. Examples: “What’s your sense of urgency?” or “Tell me about your timing preferences for delivery.”
  • Use the mAPPpeS model described in this article. The acronym stands for mentality of abundance, plausibility not perfection, and expect to be surprised.
  • Spend some time thinking about the famous William Gibson quote, “The future is already here, it’s just distributed unevenly.” That means that there are – in the present movement – small indicators of what the future holds. Some examples are wearable technology, increased prevalence of non-English texts in USA classrooms, changing weather patterns, etc. Things that are rare or less common now with be much more common in the future.
  • Mentally practice (imagine) the four responses to opportunities: sharing, enhancing, exploiting, and accept. Here is a way: imagine you have won a large cash lottery. What would you do with that money: keep and squander it, invest it, donate it, bequeath it?
  • For those involved in product development, what is the balance in investment in incremental innovation versus more disruptive innovation? The too-common model is that firms under-invest in those products that change the basis of competition, and established firms end up getting disrupted by entrepreneurial upstarts.

Scaling Up to Enterprise Strategy Making

As I’ve shared in earlier articles, it makes sense to develop individual strategic thinking competency, then blend that competency into strategy making.  Too often, executives are unpreparedly thrown into strategic planning sessions where they are expected to talk about trends and disruption.  Their minds have not been prepared to think about time as a source of opportunity.

Scenario TemplateExperience shows that this practice of looking for smaller changes is helpful when using more sophisticated futures techniques like scenario development. If you are not familiar with scenarios, it involves first identifying the top two uncertainties that would be causes of future turbulence. Those two uncertainties become the X and Y axis of a 2×2 grid, as shown in the nearby graphic.  The four resulting scenarios become a topic for further study and response of contingencies.

Another use is with responding to the question, What is our core challenge as an organization? Keeping in mind that the future is a source of opportunity, we let our imagination explore possible futures rather than getting mired in today’s operational issues.

Acknowledgement: this article is influenced by the thinking of Bill Sharpe and his book, Three Horizons: The Patterning of Hope. The 1-hour webinar (you can find it on YouTube) is an excellent introduction.

Today’s decisions affect our success in the future. Do you agree?




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