The 6 New Management Imperatives by Bruce Temkin – comments

Bruce Temkin has published a free book on his blog ((, The 6 New Management six management imperatives bruce tempkinImperatives – Leadership Skills for a Radically Changed Business Environment. Mr. Temkin sets out to define a “new set of skills” for managers. These are the 6 new imperatives:

  1. Invest in culture as a corporate asset
  2. Make listening an enterprisewide (sic) skill
  3. Turn innovation into a continuous process
  4. Provide a clear and compelling purpose
  5. Extend and enhance the digital fabric
  6. Practice good social citizenship

Lists like this one are very popular. I have been known to make lists of key practices and the like. But for the practicing manager lists are frequently tough to integrate into day-to-day work. Mr. Temkin’s six imperatives falls into this problem category. Overall, the six imperatives are reasonable enough as they stand. But I want to take a closer look at each and then suggest a more global approach. Continue reading

Getting Things Done by David Allen – a revisit


I have used David Allen’s  book, Getting Things Done: the art of stress-free productivity (Penguin: NY 2001)  both personally and with clients for a number of years. Recently I volunteered to lead a discussion of the book’s approach to personal productivity with the Greater Boston Business Network. This provoked me to re-read the book in preparation. Here are a few thoughts following my re-read and the discussion with GBBN.

Underlying Principles and Thoughts

Work and personal are now quite blurred. And so, this book is about everything in your life. There is no boundary between work and personal when it comes to being more productive. And, your mind does not treat them as separate, so a productivity system can not either. There is also a need to incorporate the big picture, strategic view, with the tactical day-to-day,  but the emphasis must be on actionable tasks. Thus, the title, Getting Things Done.

Getting into a “Productive State”, what I might call a state of flow,  when required is both a challenge and an objective of a productivity system. ((Here you might compare this with the work on how we work best in a state of “flow” as discussed in  see Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi’s   Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience ( Harper Row, NY: 1990)))

Allen builds his approach to productivity on a few “principles”.

First principle: Deal Effectively with Internal Commitments

Continue reading

Time Management – is now the time to get beyond this distracting oxymoron?

Time management is an extremely popular topic. Is this productive?

A Google search for the phrase “time management” returns the droll news that there are more than 14,900,000 responses. Amazon lists 448 books with ‘time management” in the title or subject line. A similar search on returns over 2,000 videos about time management.

But, what can this really be about? Time is a concept we use to delimit the past from the present, and whatever future there might be. Einstein is reported to have said, “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” ((I could not find a reference citation for this quote. It is ubiquitous on the web. Perhaps it is apocryphal? In a recent re-read of David Allen’s Getting Things Done Penguin, 2001), he has a side note (p. 5): “Time is the quality of nature that keeps events from happening all at once. Lately it doesn’t seem to be working”. – Anonymous )) Perhaps because we, as human beings, are a fleeting moment, we have a special focus on time. We are very aware that our time is limited, unknowable. Continue reading

Multitasking, Too Much Information, Interruptions, and High Performance

Last week I ran into a little book (it really is little, 135 pages in a 5″ x 7″ format – very easy on the hand and eye), The Myth of Multitasking: How “Doing It All” Gets Nothing Done by David Crenshaw (Jossey-Bass: San Francisco 2008).

The initial chapters take up the question of humans as multitaskers. For those who need to be reassured that the common sense answer to this question is, in this case, more than common, that it really is the sensical answer, take the time to follow the narrative. Yes, this is one of those business books written as a story. In most regards I have come to think of the first such approach that I know of to writing a business book in a narrative story format, The Goal: a process of ongoing improvement, by Goldratt, wishing it had been the last. But, I digress.

Crenshaw introduces the notion that because we really are capable of only one task at a time, the appearance of multitasking is really a series of “switchtasking” in which we shift our attention back and forth among a number of tasks. This process incurs significant inefficiencies due to the housekeeping overhead of our brain keeping track of where we are starting and stopping with each task.  Significant errors also occur as a result.

The proliferation of information devices over the last decade has multiplied the opportunities for interruption and created environments which are perpetually competing for our attention. Email, cellphones, voicemail, instant messaging, text messaging, faxes, and more clutter our desks, pockets, belts, pocketbooks, backpacks, hands, and, ultimately, our brains.  As Crenshaw aptly states, “The reality, though, is that these things will make us productive only if we learn to take control of them….If you and I don’t set up a schedule and protect our time, we allow ourselves to be run over by the traffic of information.” (page 61).

Crenshaw goes on to suggest a strategy for doing just that, establishing a schedule. I have written earlier about the need to avoid Too Much Information.

In Crenshaw’s approach to meetings which calls for establishing “recurring meetings” where people regularly need to meet with you, I think that an opportunity for a deeper understanding of what is happening is missed. The first step with meetings is to examine the reasons for the meetings. Altogether too often meetings are symptoms of poor underlying business processes, especially decision making. Many meetings turn out to be about how a decision is to be made, what information applies, what are the boundary conditions and parameters, and so on. These meetings should be replaced by sound business processes that make the decision making faster, closer to the end user, and more reliable. Other meetings will turn out to be program or process status meetings. These too should be replaced with better business processes and visual status reports. In general a manager should view every meeting where they do not add significant, singular value as a symptom of opportunities to improve processes.

Crenshaw’s approach to developing a time budget seems to me just a re-run of the age old time management gurus’ spreadsheets in which we keep track of all activities for a number of weeks and then analyze them for waste. In my experiences personally, and with clients, this approach does not work well. A significant number of people simply will not maintain a log of their activities in sufficient detail and at enough length to really be useful. More troubling, very few are able to act on the results of the analysis.

I have come to relie on a Seize Your Time approach which I have written and spoken about frequently. Basically, this works as follows:

Take out your schedule for the next week. Block out two hours during which you will post on your door a sign saying, “Do Not Disturb”, turn off all communication devices including your beloved Blackberry (iPhones, too) and work without interruption on some valuable project that will move your organization forward.

You can read more about this in my Time Management postings and podcasts.

One area in which Crenshaw strikes on a rich vein of truth is his discussion of “business systems” and “personal systems”. Here he points out the fact that the “personal system” of the business leader becomes de facto the “business system” of the company.

Many business managers and owners act as though magically their behavior is disconnected from the behavior of their company. They engage in the delusional notion that people throughout their company do not notice how they behave, how they make decisions, what their priorities are, what their values in dealing with people and other companies are, in fact, almost everything they do or say (mostly do).

Fortunately, this is not true. Why “fortunately” you might ask. The answer is that the behavior of the leader of small and medium size businesses has dramatic and reliable impacts on the performance of the company. And, since we do know what constitutes high-performance in business leaders, the leader can learn the appropriate behaviors, actively model them in their own performance, and see the results cascade through their firm.

I applaud Crenshaw for taking on a popular buzzword and small-scale plague not only in business life, but also our day-to-day world. Multitasking is indeed a myth. I would be tempted to be more vigorous in my rhetoric and say that multitasking is a fraud and a thief.