I hate wasting time. I’m pretty sure anyone who has known me for 10 minutes knows that. But what people might not know, is I hate wasting other people’s time nearly as much as I hate wasting my own. This rule applies to all things except my complete inability to be on time. Ever.
I realize that sounds like a major contradiction, so let me explain. I am talking about the ROI for the interaction. If someone spends an hour with me, I want them to feel they gained from the experience…correction: I want them to KNOW they gained from the experience. I want to have left a shadow that will last long after I leave the room. I want that time to have mattered in some way.
I never want the other person to look back and say they’d rather be playing Fortnight.
Recently I was asked to develop a change management training for a team of 120 leaders. In 2.5 hours – as an outing/team building. 2.5 hours is barely enough time to scratch the surface on change management. Add to it the 120 people, and the desire for the lesson to be embedded in an activity, and the goal of getting offsite. Those 2.5 hours create no more value than surfing the net. There won’t be any time for the participants to process what they learned. Will they even recognize the lesson?
In short, will they see value in the time they spent?
So often, we undervalue the need for adequate time to process ideas. Me, the queen of time management, and the person who recently publicly chastised herself for allotting TOO MUCH time to do a project, yes me... I’m telling you processing time is critical.
We don’t often want to take the time when we should. We want it fast. We want it easy. We essentially want life to be a fad diet that works. But, as anyone who did the cabbage soup diet with me in the 90s will tell you – it’s not fast (it’s actually the longest 4 days of your life), it’s definitely not easy (I vaguely remember sobbing uncontrollably), and the results definitely were not long lasting. In short, it was 4 days of my life I’ll never get back, though ironically, the weight returned the moment I smelled a piece of bread. A total waste of time, despite my finding the silver lining in saving on my grocery budget that week. ROI: negative.
I facilitate organization effectiveness workshops in mid-size companies. I love to sit with a team and run through their organization’s health check, in much the same way a doctor gives a physical – what’s working well today? Will it still work tomorrow if you don’t make changes? What changes will have the biggest impact?
Every single time I set the stage for the work to be done, I am asked: Can’t we do it faster? I get it, I really do. I desperately want a fad diet to work, so I can go back to “normal” in a few short weeks. But it doesn’t work that way. I do find It really funny: for someone who can’t stick to a dietary routine for her own person, I’m the surgeon general when it comes to my clients’ companies. Let’s get the foundation right so we can get results that last. Let’s make changes that will stick and create habits that will become part of your ethos.
So while I’m saying something nice to get that point across, I’m trying to hush my mother’s voice in my head saying, in her full-blown Brooklyn accent, “Why bother doing something half-assed? Do it whole-assed or not at all”. Incidentally, I have a lifetime’s worth of Carmisms stored up, so brace yourselves for future references.
My point being, when it is critical, and 120 leaders are investing their time, or a company is dedicating resources to being more effective, the value of that time should be at the forefront. That is not the time to cut a corner or try to throw everything into that cabbage soup. That is the time to maximize the return on that investment. Will the team get the same results from a program that is spread too thin?
As humans, we need processing time. We need time for awareness, for strategic thinking, for trialing, for communicating, for implementing. We need adequate time to just have our people accept, at a minimum, that change is coming. In the best cases, they embrace it and encourage it. In the worst cases, we aim for them to be able to “live with it”. We need time to allow all of these feelings and ideas to surface, to be addressed. We need to respect the process of processing.
So when responding to the client after a few rounds to understand that what they really were seeking was Change Acceptance training, not Change Management, I designed a program that includes processing time. I want the team to debrief. I want them to learn from the activity. I want them to see the activity for what it is. I want that lesson to resonate with them for days, weeks, and years to come.
I want them to value the time they invested.