The year is not yet a month old and my resolutions are waste paper. I wanted to handle my time more mindfully, focus better and prioritize more effectively. Like so many others, my schedule is crowded and the 5-hour rule, i.e. following the example of Bill Gates or Warren Buffet and to set aside five hours a week for reflection and learning, seems unattainable. I am neither proud of this nor do I want to brag about it. I prefer to take it as an occasion for a brief recollection of the insights of the Stoics and their proverbial serenity and peace of mind.
When it comes to agility, many people think in terms of methods such as Scrum on a small scale, frameworks such as LeSS on a large scale or tools such as JIRA. This perspective leads to a multitude of cargo cult, i.e. artfully celebrated actions without any effect. Agility is first and foremost a question of stance, which is best captured by the notion of sailing by sight. While classic plan-driven companies always strive to analyze, plan and then implement as comprehensively as possible, agile companies pragmatically ask themselves periodically what they can do here and now to improve and further develop their product.
The Roman Emperor Caligula became the epitome of the autocratic tyrant with his motto oderint, dum metuant (“let them hate, so long as they fear”). Fortunately, there aren’t so many of these species today in economics and politics – although nationalist and right-wing tendencies don’t bode well. Yet fear in more or less subtle form is the unspoken leitmotif in the hierarchical structures of so many organizations that lend absolutist power to their protagonists. This is against better knowledge of the detrimental effect of fear on creativity and productivity.
The turn of the year is traditionally the time to look back, pause and look forward to the new year. On a personal level, this typically leads to new year’s resolutions and in the vast majority of companies this means target agreements. Both can work, but in practice they won’t or will work only inadequately. There is hardly any management concept that is as widespread as Management by Objectives described by Peter F. Drucker in 1954. At the same time, this concept is probably the most misunderstood and abused in the history of management. There was a reason why Peter F. Drucker called it “Management by Objectives and Self-Control” and now is the time to remember it.
Warren Buffet and Bill Gates have more in common than their wealth. Since their first contact in 1991, the two have cultivated an intense friendship in which they learned a lot from each other. Bill Gates for instance learned the art of time management from Warren Buffet. This doesn’t mean meticulously filling the very last gaps in the calendar, but rather saying no and focusing on the important things. Both of them see great value in regularly using part of their time to sit around, read and reflect. An hour a day (five hours a week) is said to be worth it to the two (and to some other very successful people). And now the crucial question at the start of a new year: How do you feel about your time?