Imagine Apple, paying for research, development, and design of the iPhone. Buying not-so-cheap components and assembling them in the factory. And in the end, just before shipping the product to stores, there is some guy throwing every 5’th device out of the window. Madness? Rather business as usual for many consulting companies around the world.
This iPhone metaphor is meant to picture an everyday problem in many consulting companies – the time wasting.
Lost in time
Understanding that time is, for my company, basically an asset and the product itself at the same time was an enlightenment. As an IT consulting company we are delivering value through projects, but these projects are delivered by our consultants spending their time to deliver the best quality. Their thoughts can come in many different forms – as a business strategy, a solution, an app or some ideas and design. No physical product to stock or re-sell later and only a coffee as a source material.
On the one hand, there is a finite number of hours I can use daily. On the other hand – there is limited time for every project to be done. There is no hyper-threading in a brain and quad core ones are not developed (yet?). There is hardly a place for multitasking and doing two projects at the same time.
Considering that, every hour wasted for a useless meeting, aimless wandering between projects or looking for some job to do, is literally burning money and throwing out our product. It means that hours of smart people thinking are gone.
Time wasting has many names. It is our best account manager, buried under a pile of dull paperwork, a system architect doing repetitive work or staff working on internal, long-term projects while the commercial ones with the upcoming deadline are still unfinished.
With over 60 Predica specialists working on multiple projects for more than 10,000 hours every month, it is impossible (and unproductive) to control every single one manually.
Learning the truth about time management
Understanding the principles mentioned above was the first step in finding the solution. It is LeanTS – our internal app that has put us into 14 international markets in less than 8 years. I repeat – without this app, we would be a typical consulting business with little to no idea about the time we are investing in our projects.
In a typical consulting company, if a client ordered 8 hours of consultants working, the team would “work” 8 hours for them, even if that meant watching cats on YouTube. At the same time, another team may be understaffed and running like crazy to finish before the deadline. Madness? This is consulting!
Adding the ability to track and plan the activities of employees (and my own, of course) in the same manner we added meetings and calls to the calendar. This was the first step to measure the quality of time, performance and the real amount of work being done.
Tracking the time of every employee was the first step to gain knowledge about the profitability of a project, the performance of the team and – last but not least – management of the most valuable asset of my company – the time of intelligent people. Without knowing what they have been doing in the past, what are they doing now and what they have to do, there is no management. It’s just wishful thinking of the managerial staff.
Time is money
In fact, LeanTS gives assurances for every hour of our work, optimizes our time and staff allocation in real time and gains priceless knowledge about the company.
With our app, I get detailed information about the connections between people, projects, goals and time spent. It is crucial to find the most and the least profitable activities, the best performers, and bottlenecks in the processes. It is also a great tool to design the new internal procedures and assure the best quality of the delivered results.
For example, there is no need to dedicate more than 30% of the time of our most valuable and skilled employees to single projects. There are many other important tasks for them, like meetings with our clients, training their colleagues or performing some design-thinking on a whole company level, not the single project.
The effect – our brains are doing what they do best – high-level thinking and development. At the same time, trainees and entry-level employees gain necessary experience while working in particular projects on less complicated stuff.
Now will never come again
There are endless advantages of quality assurance of every hour. But the biggest is the reduction of a time-wasting. If your employees do not make the best use of every hour they have, it’s the same as throwing your product, through the window.
But unlike an iPhone, time is not a something you can recycle.