– Thoughts on Strategy and Management

Kids learn to walk - you should give them enough time

You have to waste time in order to save time

The business world is trimmed on maximum efficiency. Why would you waste your time when there are plenty of support tools, designed to help you become more efficient?
Time is a limited resource. Businesses aim to utilize their scarce resources to a maximum degree. They try to streamline routine tasks. They send managers and employees to time management seminars in order to make most of their valuable time.
Isn’t it a stupid advice to waste time?

Not always.

I am not talking about slowing down one’s pace of work, about little breaks to improve productivity and avoid fatigue.
I am talking about investing enough time earlier on, in order to save time later.

This is an analogy I learned from my kids.

Little children are interested in almost everything. As all parents know – time efficiency is definitely not on their list:

  • They totally live in the here and now.
  • They are always busy.
  • Even when it looks like mindless playing around, they are always learning, experimenting and practicing. And they do it at their own schedule, in their own pace.
  • Grown-ups might not understand it, but sometimes it is very important to examine virtually every stick and every stone on the way– even when you’re already late for the bus.

In a discussion forum for parents I read the following advice:

Sometimes you have to waste time in order to save time!

From my own experience, I can assure you: this is not a contradiction in itself. This life experience that actually works!

[bctt tweet=”Sometimes you have to waste time in order to save time!”]

Let me give you an example:

Toddlers who are learning to walk usually don’t walk in straight lines. They walk around crisscross, wherever their attention draws them. They even walk back and forth for the pure joy of walking. When my son was in that age, every shopping spree in our little city center became a time-consuming activity. My son developed a passion for basement windows and doorsteps. Hence, he had to examine all he could find in detail.

I decided to give him all the time he needed. I watched him enjoying his excursions and admired his curiosity and persistence. Although I didn’t accomplish much shopping, we all had a good time.

Kids learn to walk - you should give them enough time

After a few weeks, he obviously had completed all his discoveries. From that moment on, he happily walked right by my side. We were much quicker again.

At about the same time, a colleague of mine had a similar situation with her little son. When her son was learning to walk, she had always put him into his buggy for shopping sprees. She said it would take too long otherwise and, besides that, she feared that her little runaway would get lost.
Two years later, she still pushed her son in his buggy, because “He always wants to run crisscross. It takes awfully long when I let him walk. He’s so quick – he would definitely get lost!”

By that time, my son ran ahead together with his sister, reliably stoped at traffic lights and streets, and definitely stayed on our route. My kids used their walking bike and pedal scooter and were much faster than I was. Our shopping sprees are a very fast activity by now!

Implications for business life

You may already guess it: The same principle applies to business life.
It becomes more business terminology when you replace the world “waste” with the world “invest”:

Sometimes you have to invest time in order to save time!

  • Sometimes it is better to go deep into detail in your initial analysis. The alternative might be to realize that you have overlooked something important and you have to go back to the drawing board.
  • Sometimes it is better to gather your line managers for some additional training and explanations before you expect them to fill in your planning templates. The alternative might be to receive inconsistent and low-quality answers that require much subsequent enquiries.
  • Sometimes it is better not to push a hesitating customer and to build trust at first. The alternative might be to lose that business
  • Sometimes it is better to outline the requirements, functions, and structures of your financial model in advance before you start programming. The alternative might be a complex tool that is prone to error and that is not really trusted.
  • …
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