Collaborative Time Management

By Alexander Klier Dec 16, 2015
Collaborative Time Management

Translation of the Original Article by Alexander Klier 

 

Time Management has been available as a recommendation and management method for a long time. Although the concepts have evolved over time, it has always remained a highly individualistic concept. That is why it has never worked in collaboration contexts.
Picture: Brian Smithson - Time for Change on Flickr (here). Use under the terms of the Creative Commons - BY (Attribution).

The magazine managerSeminare edition of October 2015 - a 25th anniversary edition - had taken up the one issue that was already the cover story in the very first edition as cover story: The time management. Under the title "And always running out of time...", it was reflected what has changed during these 25 years. The editor Sylvia Jumpertz very vividly describes here the various phases, each having shown the contents of time management and that have determined the "medication" or the proposed solutions. Thus, over the years we went from the time management to Life Management (work-life balance) and finally to Personality Management - then to dissolve completely in the end? In any case, the rigid planning and prioritization regime gave way to the realization that planning alone does not help. You still have to be able to get the things done, get them implemented. Which actually suggests exchanges with colleagues about temporal needs. Thankfully, in the end the article goes on to believe that time management has to continue to become more social, in order to work in modern structures - even, or better - to help as an instrument. Just on this aspect she has then led an interview (here on my blog) with me. Reason enough for me to reflect on the question of collective time autonomy as collaborative time management as part of our blog.

But what is time management?

„The second problem is the assumption that most people waste their time on some side battlefields and therefore do not concentrate on their so-called real work. This completely misses the point what work actually is these days" (ManagerSeminare No. 211, pg. 70).
 

In fact, it is actually not very clear what time management - as a largely theory-less concept – is, and what exactly is supposed to be managed by time management. Time cannot be managed in this sense, anyhow. In this respect, the different trainers and providers also each have a specific focus, for example, on the activities and work-packages to be done in (working) time. Time management is usually recommended when employees (usually from management) are overloaded with their daily work. However, what all the concepts have in common is that they do not the question in any case whether there is actually too much work. There is also no mention of complexity, social conditionality of decisions or different temporal courses in the corporate context. "Time Managers" or time management "experts" give their advice completely independent of the framework conditions. True to the motto: keep your desk in order and plan properly, then you have no problems with too much work. Therefore, it is no wonder that the criticism of time management concepts is almost as old as the concepts themselves.

http://www.bea-services.de/blog-bilder/oliver-tacke---eisenhower-matrix-auf-flickr-mittel---cc-by-.jpg

Picture: Tasks are planned very rigidly in time management. Different tools, such as the Eisenhower matrix, with its distinction according to importance and urgency should help.
Graphic: Oliver Tacke - Eisenhower Matrix (
here). Use under the terms of the Creative Commons (BY-SA).

 

"Customer needs are not met in a functional silo, but through the active cooperation of people.  Talks are among the main form of value-creation, especially where knowledge is marketed „ (Walter Simon 1995, Is the time management concept still relevant? pg. 544). This at least can generally be said about time management: It is a product of Taylorism and relies heavily on the underlying ideas. Only if, for example, the delegation can be arranged, it works as a real time saver. A strong hierarchy - and the aforementioned "function silos" - are the unspoken premise of time management concepts. For this reason, it does not result in any case in a workable solution proposal in the field of (digital) collaborative cooperation.

Colleagues as time thieves

"The working process is characterized by dependencies. It has always been that way, and today is even more so the case with team conjunction" (ManagerSeminare Nr. 211, pg. 70).

Time Management Counselors take position in a clear way to social tasks, collaborative and communicative cooperation relations with the examples of "time thieves". But unfortunately only in a negative sense, because due to the rigid requirements, it is assumed that the really important tasks are those which can be satisfied without (verbal) communication or take place without communicative synchronization. Overall, it is quite amusing, when cooperatively acting employees and conversation-ready Colleagues are considered as "time thieves". The funny thing is that you usually do not know beforehand. However, you are wiser after each conversation. Typically, things can often be resolved informally during break talks that would have required much more time if done formally. In this respect, an appropriate communication behavior, which seeks dialogue and sees breaks as a fruitful opportunity, is far more appropriate than the avoidance of the talks. What is even worse: In the framework of time management, individually deferred tasks or activities not executed (à la filing in the recycle bin) require either overtime in other departments or incur additional organizational and team work, since they normally have their place in the organizational structure. Classic Time Management ignores that there are not only the most diverse – nonetheless necessary – conditions for the success of a task, but also that different conditions apply for the collaboration in groups. The characterization of collegial discussions as time traps the classic time management systematically fails to recognize the embeddedness of all employees. In other words: The principal weakness of time management is that it does not adequately recognize the benefits of social interactions and thus cannot adequately take into account the collaborative necessary conditions.

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Graphic: Social time autonomy has centrally to do with communication processes. These in turn are a common product and thus not individually formative matter. Picture: Oliver Tacke - Discussion at the Wikimedia Commons (here). Use under the terms of the Creative Commons (BY = Attribution).

 

Social time autonomy

" Time autonomy does not mean the unconditional enforcement own time interests, but recognition of the time interests of others in own actions"
(
Rainer Trinczek 2005, About time, autonomy, its regulation and why it so rarely works, pg.386)


To the degree in which a successful operational cooperation is to take place, appointments need to be determined as timestamps and especially coordinated. This applies: the more specialized and complex, the more need is there for coordination and the more dependent on each other the collaborative temporal relation will be. Individual appointments cannot just be isolated, but are in a strong interdependency due to the division of labor. This rarely is made aware of under a tayloristic work organization. Typically, in a Tayloristic context communication processes are also separated from the work processes. This leads to the actually pretty comical situation that there are documents to any facts of the work, but that talking about these documents and their contents must be organized independently. So far, usually in that the documents are sent via e-mail and is then the necessary communication is conducted by means of mail (a good example regarding the effect Harald Schirmer posted here). A social time autonomy is now then not to prioritize the messages and treat as generally suggested in the classic time management for work. Social time autonomy can only succeed and be perceived once the group and dependency context of work and communication come back into view. In our view, simply by the fact that employees exchange (digitally) via their communities. And merge collaboration and communication again with the documents, for example by sharing and commenting these. Or even to use collaborative tools such as blogs and wikis for mutual information and for creation and documentation of the contents.

A Community-based concept

 

„What one has to learn is temporal synchronization and collective time autonomy, not individual” (ManagerSeminare Nr. 211, pg. 70).

Now, what can a collaborative counter-proposal for time management look like? Time is not really sparse within enterprise organizations. It only becomes sparse when different projects and temporal demands collide. Or if there is actually too much work through systematic overload such as targets, as you can clearly show in the scientific research. But then in turn no Time Management can help. In our view, therefore, at the end again the attempt to outline a community-based concept of social time autonomy:

·        If the group members assume an upfront monitoring function of management, where they closely watch that all are working efficiently, then the group the group will miss the goal of Time autonomy. Especially if resources are tight. Instead of putting the blame on individual group members, an appropriate resourcing – which also applies to personnel – must be urged together and within the community.

·        The necessary balance between individual and collective time interests can only be reached communicatively. Categories such as „“Consideration“, „Negotiation“ and „Interaction“ get a dominant role in successful work in communities. This requires special expertise in the field of teamwork, and respect for each different individual temporal interest and requirement. Such a coordination power has its place in the joint discussion and agreement of the objectives within the framework of the community.

·        Good work within the framework of communities can only happen with the condition of high personal or social autonomy. When the moment arrives that others of equal status have to be won over to additionally take over work (delegation did not work), then the required time for this act of communication is usually greater than the time required to complete the task.  This still necessary communication on equal footing is easy to implement on digital platforms in the communities.

·        Communities are about networking. This means they are about bringing people together according to common goals. This in turn means that they are interested in participating personally. Quite different Time dimensions will then come into play besides the actual time on the clock, such as unscheduled time and breaks.  But also the possibility to „live“ private parts during working hours. Just as in turn, work is obviously done from home.  This is the prime example of the possibilities of digital platforms, because the various temporal needs can be realized naturally and easily.

 

Communication is the foundation of all social and collaboration actions. Even the planning and setting of desired objectives in the context of a community is a highly communicative act. Just as decision-making processes are usually designed communicatively and require the implementation of continuous communication. This is explicitly recognized in collaborative platforms and implemented productively. At least, if a genuine community-based solution is implemented. Social time autonomy here means to be aware of the different time requirements and conflicts, to address that as part of the Community and to arrive together at temporal and binding agreements (within the Community). And, to massively press together for remedial action if the resourcing is contrary to this goal.