Diagram of time in 6 month project: months on x axis & daily hours on y axis to show how useful project time is compressed
Diagram of time in 6 month project: months on x axis & daily hours on y axis to show how useful project time is compressed

I have been reading a few books on time and research shows how little is truly available for what companies recognise as ‘real’ work.

Connie Gersick’s work on inertia and midpoints shows teams do not engage meaningfully with work until half way thru whatever the defined project timeline is. So in a 6 Month project, most work occurs post the 3M point (x axis in image).

Daniel Pink’s book When (which includes Gersick’s research) talks about Chronotypes and the idea of a fairly standard Peak, Slump, Recovery sense of individual capacity. Mornings work for most people for analytical work but performance slumps by 20% or more in afternoon. So 9am to 1pm is really when ‘work’* happens (y axis in image).

How can managers align teams in Time to enable the best use of people?

Managers do have meaningful power over the team’s perception of Time and teams need leadership to align time at the start. This is part of Dominance leadership (as discussed in Rebel Ideas by Mathew Syed). However, that control needs to release as project progresses to ensure both creativity and psychological safety. The team’s own shared sense of time develops and it must become the primary form.

Chronodesign needs analysis of team member’s personal chronotypes (online surveys are available) and a better plan for how work is planned and managed over project time. Knowing how time works individually and communally matters. Thinking only in calendar terms of a mechanical sense of time does not work now.

What ‘work’ is remains a question here. If it is simply task delivery (build object, make content, write code, analyse research, etc.) then the morning-only sense of useful time is probably true. If a broader sense of creativity and social connection is included then the afternoon opens up as useful time too.

Sensory Design Consultant, usability researcher and workshop facilitator. www.linkedin.com/in/alastair-somerville-b48b368 Twitter @acuity_design & @visceralUX

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