Ask SCORE: Is it all a matter of time?

Is it all a matter of time?
By Richard Walton

In my work with small business entrepreneurs I often hear a familiar complaint: 'There just isn't enough time in the day to get everything done!'. A variation on that theme might be: 'If I want it done right, I'll have to do it myself!'
Today's depressed economy demands more of small business owners and managers than ever before, but many of us have fewer resources than ever available. You have to do more with less, as the saying goes. No one would doubt that it is a tough job to get it all done, on time, within budget, and to the complete satisfaction of the customer/client.
But there are steps we can take to improve the working environment, and get more done even with the restricted resources we have available. The key points are: 1) using training and delegation to spread the work with confidence, 2) improving our productivity with prioritization and restriction of non priority messages and tasks, and 3) the establishment of a new cultural norm in your business of taking responsibility and assuming accountability for decisions and their implementation. Let's take each of these new paradigms and discuss how they can in fact, make more time available for you.
The first key is using training and delegation to spread the work with confidence. Managers must train their subordinates to carry out the tasks formerly reserved only to management. With training (and support), work can be delegated to subordinates, leaving managers to provide oversight and support, but not to do the work. The completion of tasks formerly done only by managers provides new confidence to subordinates, and new time available to managers.
The second key is prioritization coupled with restriction of non priority interruptions and tasks. Managers in many firms are not really the bosses of their own time. Unless there is prioritization, which means that the manager works on tasks that are important and urgent, effective time management cannot be assured. While Key step 1 above uses training and delegation to spread work away from managers to others who can effectively conclude the required tasks, Step 2 is concerned with identifying top priorities and forcing all other matters to lower levels within the organization, leaving top priorities to top managers. Important to this task is the categorization of events in which a diary of situations is prepared followed the categorization of each into priority level involved. Managers take responsibility for those appropriate to their level within the organization, All others are assigned to suitably qualified personnel, other than top managers.
The third key is the establishment of a new cultural norm by which everyone, manager and non manager alike assume responsibility and accountability for tasks, event management, and decisions related to their work areas. Cultural norms are ways in which people operate based upon both previous experience and the perception of the current situation. Cultural norms are established by behavioral modeling. Managers create new norms by changing the way work is distributed and rewarded, and helping personnel adapt to the new situations and new behaviors required of them.
These three keys in combination actually create new time for managers by the effects of delegation, prioritization, and cultural norms. They pave the way for managers to concentrate on really important tasks, while ensuring the 'regular work' of the organization goes on uninterrupted and unimpeded by the lack of managerial presence.
How much time is there? The answer is: 'All that you need', if you but manage it correctly. Wasn't it said once, that 'This is the best of times, and the worst of times. It is only what we do with it, that makes the difference'.

Mr. Walton teaches Entrepreneurship and Quality Management at Frostburg State University. He is also Assistant District Director for SCORE, Western Maryland, and the President of ERMACORP, a Hagerstown based Management Consulting Firm. He may be reached at 301-462-9850, or by email to