About 18 months ago, Vistage speaker Tom Foster spoke to my Tucson Chief Executive Group about a concept called Timespan. It is based on the work of Elliot Jacques (pronounced Jakes), a professor at George Washington University. To parphrase my understanding of Timespan, it defines the ability of an employee to understand the implications of his or her actions a certain amount of time into the future. It also describes the amount of time an employee can work without additional supervision or reassignment. According to Foster, and much to the dismay of many supervisors and managers, Timespan is more or less innate, meaning that you cannot take a production worker with a timespan of a few days to a strata of a senior manager, which may require a timespan of several years. Mismatching timespan is the proverbial square peg in a round hole, except the pets are people and the result is non-performance, frustration or boredom.
For many of my Tucson CEO members, this talk was on of the most impactful of the five years our Tucson Vistage CEO group has been meeting. As one CEO said, “This explains a lot of things I haven’t been able to get my arms around!”
“I don’t understand,” Roger shook his head. “If Brad would just start earlier on these longer projects, things would be under control, and he wouldn’t be cutting unnecessary corners which compromise project quality.”
“Why do you think he procrastinates until the end?” I asked.
Roger shook his head.
“Because,” I continued, “he cannot see the end until he is two months away.