Time to Think?

Are managers and leaders missing out on the opportunity to further develop their work and business, by focusing too much on doing rather than thinking? Many successful people have credited their success to the ability to devote time and space to thinking. Google’s 70-20-10 rule in which staff spend 70% of their time on the core business, 20% on related tasks and 10% on thinking about unrelated issues has caught on. Other advocates of thinking as part of the work process include Jack Welch (former boss of General Electric), Bill Gates (Microsoft), Marc Benioff (CEO of SalesForce.com). An article, “You Are Paid To Think, Not To Do” (CMI Professional Manager, Winter 2014:42-45) outlines the pros and cons of having time to think, and acting without a lot of time to think.

Is this where our problems lies? Is it that we are constantly pushing for action, whist insisting on reflective practice without giving it the time or credence it deserves? Arguably, this is a strange dichotomy as the majority of training and qualifications linked to management and leadership advocate a time for reflection, strategy development, and being able to take a step back from the situation to assess/evaluate in a clear and open manner. After speaking with a number of colleagues and observing working practice in a number of environments, it would seem this is the case. Many organisations are pushing their staff harder than ever before, but there is still an insistence that staff reflect upon their work and improve it, but they are not given the time needed to effectively do this. The mind-set of many businesses is still “facio ergo sum” (I do, therefore I am), whereas there is a need to move towards “cogito egro facio” (I think, therefore I do).

This stance means that many individuals and organisations are failing to meet their true potential as they are not achieving a balance between thinking and doing. You can see this in many organisations where individuals are appointed to senior management and/or leadership roles to assist with the development and growth of the business, but are still expected to undertake menial roles/tasks to the detriment of their true function, which makes no sense financially.

The idea is to create more of a balance; according to a leading management consultant, with more than 25 years’ experience, there should be a 50:50 ratio between thinking and doing; however, this should be flexible and is dependent on organisational requirements.

There is a need for us to be able to put the hustle and bustle of work to one side so that we can dedicate our thinking to other aspects of the business, by doing this we will reduce work related pressure, and time off from work due to stress and depression. It is not only healthier for the individual but for the business as well.