Bain & Co: Stop wasting valuable time

By | July 14, 2015

So I am a procrastinator.  I will just admit it.  Have not completed by 2014 taxes (yes, they were due 3 months ago), but we filed an extension.  I have a big writing project which is also over due.  This is the right Bain blog post for me here.  Basically, here are Bain’s 7 ways to stop wasting valuable time.  Get the most out of your executives. . .

Consultantsmind Clock

Bain agrees with Peter Drucker who said that peoples’ time is the company’s most valuable resource.  (Who would be so stupid to disagree with Drucker, right?) Bain’s words are shown in blue color below.

1. Separate operations from strategy

Operational matters require detailed discussion and analysis. Strategy requires a big-picture, forward-looking view. The two mindsets are different, and the two kinds of topics mix poorly.

This is an incredibly deep point.  Seems like executives spend too much time conducting status-quo operational reviews, when they should also plan for deeper, thoughtful, all-day strategy sessions too.  These two are not the same.

2. Focus meetings on decisions, not discussion

BAAM.  Awesome.  Send out the information stuff as pre-reads, and make decisions. Too often meetings are wasted time.  Clearly explain to meeting participants, this what we will decide on today in this meeting. BAAM.

3. Prioritize high-value items

Decision architecture.  This is deep stuff.  Think through your business, and the chain of decisions which need to be made.  Prioritize them and focus your attention on that. What is critical path?  What is core to my success?  Which decisions matter?

A useful tool for identifying important decisions is a decision architecture— essentially, a list of key decisions along each step of a business’s value chain, prioritized by the value at stake and the degree of management attention required. 

4. Move items off the agenda

Get things done.  No reason for things to linger on the agenda.  Simple

5. Demand real choices for each major decision

This is a fascinating story that highlights the need to have a culture of authenticity, trust, and shared vision.  You do not want people surrounding you who only say yes.  You want real choices and real options.

It’s said that whenever Henry Kissinger, the former US secretary of state, asked his foreign policy team for alternatives, the team would always present one that led to unconditional surrender to the Soviet Union, a second that led to thermonuclear war and a third—the one the team favored. Ask your teams to present real choices, not false ones. 

6. Introduce a common language for decision roles

Get into the rhythm of making decisions and develop norms so the team can quickly make decisions.  Not to detract from this good Bain post, but my wife and I have a simple system when we disagree on a decision.   We ask, “On a scale of 1-10, how much do you WANT to do this?”  Likewise, “On a scale of 1-10, how much do you NOT WANT to do this?”  If she is a 9 and I am a 3. . . then clearly, the 9s win.

7. Make decisions stick

Clear enough.  Explain to people WHY the decision was made, create the incentives (rewards and punishments) for compliance.  Make it easy to see if the right behaviors are followed.  Be consistent in messaging and follow through.  Don’t Yo-Yo.

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2 thoughts on “Bain & Co: Stop wasting valuable time

  1. Marina

    ” Focus meetings on decisions, not discussion” – Your hear this one a lot and many people seem to have internalized it as often someone suggests to take stuff off-line etc when there is a discussion and move on. I have very mixed feelings about this: Of course it’s not a useful thing to have lengthy discussions on details with a bunch of people. BUT many decision can easily be made by one or two people (no real meeting necessary), however it is hard to sell them and make them stick. The same goes for a resolution type decision making in a meeting. Attendees will vote yes on prepared resolutions but will not really own the decision if they didn’t have the chance to discuss and air their concerns.

    Plus, when *is* the time for discussion if not in meetings?

    Reply
    1. consultantsmind Post author

      Marina, completely agree with what you said. Getting buy-in, driving concensus, and letting people feel like they are a part of the process is key. Agreed.

      My only argument would be that people over-rely on meetings as a way to get things done. Some of this can be done through other means too – surveys, meeting minutes, mini-projects (divide and conquer), maturity models, workshops, a culture of decision making.

      It’s not a perfect world, I understand. It is all about relationships, and people are used to meetings. . . my clients are too. However, as consultants, anything we can do to free up our executives (liberate them from meetings) the better, usually.

      Reply

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