In my last blog post
, I spent some time explaining why both “Good is the Enemy of Great” and “Great is the Enemy of Good” (paraphrasing myself here) can be true depending on how, when and where you are applying them.
Well, I think “Time is the Enemy of Everything” when applied to business pretty much always holds true. (OK, before getting into the meat of the blog, I am going to assume that releasing high quality products and services are always the goal when I make this statement. Clearly, rushing a product to market with no concern to quality is not a good idea.)
Back on point, I am hardly the first or most informed to take up this topic. In a blog
post from December 2009, Trevor Miles referenced a 1987 article
from George Stalk Jr, formerly of Boston Consulting Group. I think Stalk captured the point about time best with the following statement, “Response time is the secret weapon of all businesses. In fact, a company’s overall competitive advantage is directly tied to response time, more so than other performance differences.”
Stalk has a number of “Rules of Response” – very objectives measures of the impact of time lag – which can be found in the link in the article referenced above. I am going to focus a little less on numbers and more on general time-reduction activities in my approach to this subject.
Let’s look at the three outcomes that we state, and are confident that companies will achieve, with RapidResponse Control Tower. The outcomes we have stated are:
- improved customer service
- reduced risk and
- improved financial returns (both revenue and cost).
If we took a look at “how” we help our customers achieve these outcomes, the statements might be more precise if they were stated as:
- reducing the time to respond to customer requests
- time to detect and correct (or at least mitigate) risk situations
- reducing time to achieving financial results.
In thinking about examples of where reducing cycle times have a significant impact of business operations, I can’t actually think of any examples of where reducing cycle times don’t have a significant impact!
Reducing...time to market on new products; time to respond to customer inquiries and complaints; time to hire onboard and train new employees; time to collect cash; time for contractors to get started and co-ordinated for the next phase of a project; time to move inventory; time to get raw materials into finished goods. I could go on, but I worry about the amount of data for readers without 64-bit browsers.
Look, I realize everyone fundamentally gets the concept, but why have improvements in cycle time reductions across all these areas been so modest over the last decade?
Many people get it. Processes – through process (re)engineering, lean, six sigma and other quality intiatives - have gotten better. Maybe there just hasn’t been the technology to allow for integrated planning, rapid detection of deviations from plan (due to either internal or external factors) and responding to these deviations to allow for critical course corrections. That is, technology to drive time out of the system.
To close, am I suggesting that if a company has a solid strategy, that reducing time to…well…anything is THE competitive advantage? Maybe I am.
One last point to help reinforce the point of this time reduction theory is to ask if it has held up over the course of time.
The most simple expression of the concept may be a Benjamin Franklin quote, “Time is money." The same Benjamin Franklin who died 73 years before Henry Ford was born and 165 years before the birth of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.
til next time … Kirk