The speed at which business is done today is ruthless. The business environment is ever-changing and CEOs are asked to not only grow their businesses but see into the future and prepare for what it is to come. No easy task for sure. The marketplace is filled with tragic stories of billion-dollar companies such as Kodak and Blockbuster Video that failed to see the changing winds.
That’s why nearly a common theme I find in talking to CEOs is that it’s a daily struggle to manage their time and get everything done.
For the last 20 years of my life, I’ve lived in Osaka and had a front-row seat to see how Japanese companies approach time management. At first, some ideas felt foreign to me, but over time I’ve come to see the genius in methods from both sides of the Pacific.
Japan prefers a more philosophical approach while in the West we tend to prefer the more direct approach. They both work.
Having dealt with hundreds of clients over the years, I realize there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to productivity. What works for one person may not work for the next which is why every CEO should make invest some time to find out what works for them.
Kanban – This literally means signboard in Japanese and was developed by Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer at Toyota in the late 1940s. Originally created for dealing with supermarkets’ inventory, it has since been refined to help teams in any industry more effectively manage their workload. At the core of Kanban is Just-In-Time (JIT) which refers to only what it needs when it is needed and in the amount it’s needed.
This works as well for big corporations as it does for small businesses. Entrepreneurs can implement this concept by using a whiteboard (or table) and divide it up into three columns: options, doing and done.
The key is focusing on not overloading the middle column. Limit your “now” activities to a maximum of three things. This allows focus on a limited number of tasks resulting in less wasted energy.
Kaizen – Kaisen, roughly translated means “good change.” In practical terms, it’s a productivity philosophy that seeks constant improvement. As it’s not an actual methodology, there are no tools to buy or planners needed. The key is getting management to buy into the concept that all employees are an integral part of the team.
When I see kaisen in action, I am reminded of what companies like Google and 3M implemented which was instrumental in their growth. They would allow employees to spend up to 20% of their time working on their own projects that would help the company. Post-Its are just one idea born out of this concept.
Applying this concept to my businesses and those of my clients, in practically every case employees’ morale rose, attrition dropped and productivity increased. It does take a little time for people to buy into this, but sticking with it can do wonders for any business.
Say no – Certainly a western concept and one that has served me well over the years. “Yes” is easy, there is no pressure or stress over saying yes. Clients, friends, and family love to hear that magic word. Only one problem, it costs you your time. “No” is where the magic is.
When I first started saying no to people’s requests, it was tough. But over time I realized that I was actually doing us both a favor. I stopped overcommitting myself, and clients knew they could trust me to get the job done.
The 3D approach – This was essentially made famous by David Allen, author of the best-selling book, Getting Things Done. In it, Allen talks about the importance of dividing tasks into one of three categories: do it, delegate it or defer it. An incredibly simple concept (especially with email), but very effective at helping people get control of their workload.
Personally, when I implemented delegation to nearly everything I could, it was a game changer. I was able to put my energies where they would be most effective, allowing me to build run two companies simultaneously.
The categories of time – Best-selling author Stephen Covey talks about the four quadrants of time, but I’ve always preferred Edwin Bliss take on how time is often split among five categories
1. Important and urgent
2. Important and not urgent
3. Urgent but not important
4. Busy work
5. Wasted time
The key category to focus on is important and not urgent as most of the things in our lives fall into this category. How people approach this category is what separates effective from ineffective individuals.
Scripting – According to marketing extraordinaire Dan Kennedy, it’s not enough to have a schedule, we must be ruthless with our time as it’s the one resource that is irreplaceable. Our day should be broken down into groups as small as 15 minutes so that the moment you wake up, you know exactly what you need to do and how long you will spend on it.