Mixed Signals

Unresolved Issues: Finding That 8-Day Work Week

6/13/2011 4:27 PM

My friend and telecom colleague, iSuppli senior analyst Steve Mather, is a busy guy.

He visits clients, he writes and researches, he coaches his sons’ athletic teams. Yet, like me, he sometimes bemoans the lack of time and opportunity to really study and understand today’s complex business issues. “Indeed, all executives and analysts alike are experiencing information overload… we all see the ‘what’, and yet we want someone to quickly explain the ‘so what’. The challenge and opportunity today is in taking the time to figure out the ‘so what’,” Mather professes. iSuppli is a market intelligence provider with 100+ analysts covering the electronics industry.

Another telecom friend and colleague whose advice I respect a good deal, Space Systems/Loral senior vice president Arnold Friedman, sees it similarly, noting that he has sought expert peer advice on things such as finding tools to enhance productivity and organization. “It’s a good question, because I think that the point is, Can you carve out time to think and strategize?” Friedman’s company, Space Systems/Loral, provides satellites that help people communicate (and watch pay TV), even in remote locations around the world.

Yet another respected friend and colleague, Technicolor senior vice president Greg Gudorf, notes, “You need to get good at sorting and at delegating.” Greg has a team of about one hundred under him as the key executive in charge of developing Technicolor’s new electronic program guide called MediaNavi.

One of the methods Friedman has discovered is to typically start all meetings five minutes past the hour or half hour [and end prior meetings exactly on the hour or half hour], thus gaining himself precious additional time to control emails, make a quick additional call, or do whatever. He and Mather are also focused on constantly trying to cut clutter. Adds Freidman, “20-25 years ago there was a dearth of information, today it is just the opposite.”

All three find the need to quickly sort out all the information because, Friedman observes, “People today want answers quickly.” With emails and tweets and calls to smartphones, it’s tough for anyone these days to have a real excuse for not quickly responding to a request for response (even when on vacation).

Gudorf also emphasizes how difficult it can be to manage the office and personal sides of life, including, at his level, trying to keep employees content and motivated. He jokes: “The Huffington Post tried once to find the perfect way to make life better for today’s employees. They concluded the best way to do that: bring sleeping cots into the office.”

Tongue in cheek aside, Gudorf likes to delegate, and spend less and less time micromanaging, as that delegation process succeeds. He adds that a good manager lets those employees “do their things,” which is especially tough for type A personalities, like himself.

Steve Mather wraps the subject by observing, “Even world class thought leaders need time to think and synthesize.” Mather goes on to note that today’s information overload is creating new opportunities for those practicing the old art of taking a moment to do research the right way. Fast and loud stock trading are fun, but strategic decision-making often can benefit from quietly connecting the dots. Mather concludes, “In essence, executives and analysts need more time, not to observe the news, but to think about its implications”. The downside Mather observes is that “By the time you do that final edit and by the time it’s finished, that study is already out of date.”

Indeed, and if only there were more to that “8 Day’s A Week” thing, than a ’60s rock and roll group’s plea for more lovin’ and more romance…?

Jimmy Schaeffler is chairman and CSO of Carmel-by-the-Sea-based consultancy The Carmel Group (www.carmelgroup.com).