Everything is completed by performing a series of tasks. To plan, estimate, forecast, etc. we most often predict the tasks we’ll perform to get the desired outcome, then sequence them, assign resources, and guess at a duration for each. In this model – we’re predicting the future and how we’ll get there. And for anyone who’s done it—or read about it—that’s a terrific way to fail. Why we almost always achieve the desired outcome, how we get there (and how long it takes) is vastly different from what we had planned. Again, this is because we can’t know unknowns (timing), time doesn’t scale, and we can’t control time (it’s an absolute).
If there’s one metric that used more than any other, it’s time. Time is unique in that we all have a limited and finite amount. You can’t make more time, stockpile it, refund it, or spend it faster. Time is priceless.
Its usefulness as a metric is convenient because it’s constant. One hour today is the same thing as one hour tomorrow. Costs, productivity, effort, etc. are driven from time based metrics and used to forecast spans of time (months, years, decades). We use time to plan—and thus—we use time to watch and control the present; as well as, benchmark the future and past.
As a project manager, I’m always dealing with time. And as a project manager, I’ve realized that while time is a constant in the sense of measuring the void of space; it is not a human constant. Businesses are nothing more than a group of humans and thus susceptible to all things humans are susceptible to. And in lies the focus of this aside—I think we (from a business sense) have misinterpreted how to use time. Time is not the best way to bill, pay, measure, quote, plan, manage, or lead. My reasoning for time being a poor metric I’ve broken into three parts; timing, scalability, and control. What follows is then my suggestion on how we move forward.