Time is Money and What It Means When It Comes to Strategy

An old saying states that “time is money” and it still applies today. Most people take this sage advice as a reminder to be efficient in their work – that is, the longer you take to do something, the greater the amount of money you spend/waste accomplishing it. However, in these days of rapid change, “time is money” takes on another meaning. In this case, the longer you take to make a change in your organization’s direction/business model when faced with a shift or disruption in the business or operating environment, the more it will probably “cost” you in the end. The penalty for being a risk adverse tortoise rather than an agile adaptive hare these days can range from lost opportunities to revenue loss and, in the worst cases, bankruptcy.

In addition to this, I’d also include another perspective on “time is money” – one that’s focused on value, investment, and return. So, for the sake of completeness, let’s also frame “time is money” as meaning that “time invested well (i.e. on the “right” things) delivers value”.

The implication of these different perspectives is that time is actually a shape shifter. In one case devoting time to something can be an investment while in another situation it can be a costly waste. It also means that time spent doing something may have been an investment yesterday but now, in today’s context, isn’t.

In my experience, business activities (and the time we spend on them) undergo a change in their value when business objectives change. And business objectives often change when the “rules” of the game change.  

However, sometimes I think that those of us in the business community don’t think that these facts apply to the activities associated with strategy. We seem to keep on doing what we’ve always done without critically evaluating whether the time we spend on them is still a good investment of time and resources in the current context. And we don’t ask ourselves whether there are new things we should be doing to get the most out of our strategy creation and implementation efforts.

Since context is everything when assessing value, let’s begin by examining some fundamental changes that have occurred in the business environment, the requirements for strategy management and business success, and the objectives of strategy activities.

Business Environment


With this new context, and its implications, in mind, we now have a more objective frame for assessing whether the strategic processes and tools, and the time spent on them, still represent time well spent. For example, let’s take scenario planning – a tool that has been used as part of the standard strategic planning toolkit for some time. Back in the day when the business environment was stable and predictable, scenario planning was a solid investment of time, effort, and resources. However, in an environment full of unpredictability and lurking black swans, putting time into scenario planning just doesn’t have the value it once had. In this context, it’s easy to see that scenario planning is just one case where spending the time on it has gone from being a good investment to a questionable one.

Completing a critical examination also provides us with an opportunity to see when adopting, and investing time and effort in, new strategy processes and tools makes sense in the current context. Let’s consider mapping out your company’s business model. While tools such as the business model canvas and strategy maps (two examples of business model frameworks) have been around for a while, they haven’t been routinely incorporated into the strategy processes of existing companies (the business model canvas is routinely used by startups and entrepreneurial enterprises). It just didn’t seem to be time well spent in yesterday’s context, however, when strategy management and business success demands that companies put their business model at the center, spending time working with, and on, your company’s business model suddenly becomes an extremely high value activity that has to be a key part of your strategy/strategy activities.

I’m sure that I could go on and I hope that you’ll add your thoughts and comments to this post. What do you think we should take out of and add to a contemporary approach to strategy?

The bottom line is that we all need to take a closer look at everything we do in relation to strategy creation, implementation, and management because time is a precious resource. We need to remove the waste and we need to make sure that the strategy activities we do spend our time on represents “time invested well” in a business environment characterized by rapid change and breathtaking disruption.


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