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Accelerating time

Organizing through delegating control over time.

Time acceleration

We live in a time in which the surroundings change with a raging speed. As a consequence, a new concept of time has come into existence. We have been used to a linear time, with 24 hours a day, and a cyclic time, with four seasons a year. Now, more and more people are experiencing a different kind of time: accelerating time. This is the experience that the world around us is changing faster than individuals can keep up and organizations can learn (Eddie Obeng).

Organizations arrange themselves based on the control over the most scarce production factors. In the past, this was labour, but labour had been replaced by capital. Then the capital was the most scarce production factor, but capital was made productive with knowledge. But knowledge has become online available. Many people are now experiencing that time is the most scarce production factor. What is the consequence of this for organizations?

Scarce time

Full of enthusiasm, we wish to build on the organization of tomorrow. This organization is agile, humane and sustainable. Organizational professionals are inspired by network structures based on equality and rolls. Using dialogue as a method, “head” and “heart” are connected.

Many organization professionals wish to contribute to a sustainable future of the organization and recognize the unsustainability of the established order. Words like “self organization”, “co-creating”, “social innovation” and “networking” are discussed. This already calls for a feeling of liberation. However, the accelerating time causes a hyperzone that prevents organizations to build towards this utopia. We have no time to sharpen the axe, because there are too many trees to chop.

Our economical culture of globalization, large scale benefits and profound fragmentation of business processes, is still holding us too firmly in their grasp. How can we meet the business results and at the same time organize differently?

Organizing in the accelerating time

The accelerating time sets new requirements for organizing activities. When the speed of change in the surrounding of the organization was slower than adaption, then organizations were in control of change. Organizations could develop and improve new tasks and business rules to control them. This is often summarized in a business paradigm: E=K*A (effectiveness = quality * acceptance).

However, when the speed of change is higher than the maximum speed of adaption, the end of this model has been marked.

We have to learn to handle time in a different way. When time speeds up, organizations will have to learn to do what is right, do the right things and do things right. Suppose individuals could assess the way they handle time objectively. Then individuals would have an objective mirror for self evaluation and self management. Based on such an objective evaluation, the use of time can be discussed and improved.  Now managers can delegate the use of time with objective indicators. Then organization can assess how individuals cope with the speeding up of time. This is how organizations can organize control over time.

The modern law of management from Archimedes can be deduced: E=K*A^2 (effectiveness = quality * acceptance * assessment of the individual use of time). This modern law of Archimedes is a proven buoyant force in organizations.

Time: the broken alliance

The successful use of time as a transition strategy, requires that we reframe the management perspective on time. Charlie Chaplin shows us in Modern Times how humanity left the organization when time was used as an efficiency method. “Time” thus became the central concept in the indictment against organizations that are being controlled as machines. Organizational professionals that use a more organic approach to organizing, want to distance themselves from what they identify with this mechanical model. This caused a distrust of time as an object of dialogue and professionalizing. A natural alliance between humanization of the organization and focus on time was blocked. This is unfortunate, because the subjective concept “attention for individual wellbeing” can be translated into the objective assessment of how individuals cope with the speeding up of time. This gives insight in realistic goal setting, cooperation, vitality, work-life balance etcetera.

The delegation of responsibility to employees cannot be done without delegating their control over time. When individual authorization is given, individual accountability should be asked. If not, the network of commitments falls apart en trust disappears. This accountability should be objectified, because without objectifying arbitrariness arises and illusions will endure.

Sustainable productivity

Objectifying the individual use of and control over time serves three mayor goals:

To make sure individual employees do not drown and teach them to handle the accelerating time.
To make business processes smart, effective and of added value.
To make a culture of servant leadership, self organisation and network cooperation.

A new tool that has been developed especially for the individual accountability of time is the Tasktuner (www.tasktuner.com). The Tasktuner provides measurable insight in whether individuals can meet milestones given their limited availability, fragmentation, resilience to cope with uncertainty and many more objectify able aspects of the workload. Thus, the tool gives individuals and teams insight and practical suggestions on how to cope with individual workload. Team and business process views give insight in individual time constraints in the relevant area of control. This provides a foundation for self management and dialogue.

Innovate the transition path with time

In short objectifying and delegating the individual control over time gives the organization the hands and feet in a transition to an organization that is sustainable and productive in the accelerating time. Delegating the individual control over time is an important development to stay relevant as an organization in the accelerating time. This might be a new perspective for you, but Einstein once said: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Other organizations that experimented with individual control over time have achieved remarkable results. You can experiment too and that has always been a right way to innovate.


I would like to thank my doughter for translating my article.


Maarten de Winter

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