The Curse of No Time For That

Chad is a client who frustrates the hell out of me. He’s a “High I”, an “Achiever”, a “Quickstart” – a creative, driven business person who gets results through perseverance and high effort.

He wants his business to grow. He knows he can’t do it by himself and that scaling requires planning. He hires capable people but soon discards them when they fail to deliver on his (usually unexplained) expectations. Planning is done half-heartedly because he values flexibility and agility, and he sees planning as the enemy of both. We’ve had too many discussions about the need to create real structure in his business, structure that will enable him to increase profits in the short-term and to scale in the long-term. Chad’s typical response to my suggestions is that he has “no time for all that.”

By “for all that” he means putting pen to paper and documenting his business processes, his expectations, the standards by which work is done and employees are evaluated. He doesn’t have time “for all that” because he equates structure with drudgery, bureaucracy, cost and mindlessness.

What Chad doesn’t understand is this: that structure liberates the business and its employees to focus their efforts on the exceptions rather than the rule. Structure grounds employees in a firm understanding of what’s expected of them so they can successfully tackle the most common situations they’ll face, without help from someone else. Structure reduces the amount of confusion and wasted time employees (and customers) face whenever it’s not clear who’s responsible for what in a company. Structure helps new employees become productive sooner, with less support from their bosses. Structure functions as judge and jury, silencing many “my way is better than yours” arguments before they even get started. Structure gets customers’ problems solved more quickly.

Yes, structure creates freedom: freedom to spend more time on the things that only you can do; freedom from the frustration of employees doing less than they seem capable of; freedom from a thousand decisions for which the solutions are already known; freedom from the wrath of angry customers who were bruised in the “No Man’s Land” of uncoordinated employee servicing; freedom from lower profits and higher customer attrition than that of your competitors; freedom to spend less time working and more time with family and friends doing the things that success writes checks for.

This is the vision I paint for Chad. I know I’ll get him there one day soon.

But you don’t have to wait to harvest the benefits of structure. All it takes is commitment, discipline, a little bit of technical know-how, and you can free yourself from the trap of “no time for all that.” I can promise you that you’ll look back and wonder why you didn’t create structure earlier, wonder how you let yourself live so unproductively and reactively. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, creating structure will enable you to create the freedom you need to achieve your full potential.

Unless, of course, you have no time for that.

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