Those who've read me for awhile probably know that I'm a strong supporter of the writing, research and theories of my brilliant colleague at VeraSage Institute, Ron Baker.
Well, he's done it again. One of the messages Ron has been delivering to professional service firms, since long before I met him in 1999, is that timesheets measure the wrong stuff in professional service firms.
"If I don't use timesheets, how will I know how much to charge?" That's the first question we PSFs ask Ron, literally, every time he speaks.
The next question asked is:
"But if we don't use timesheets, how do we 'measure' productivity?"
People argue: "I cannot manage my people if they don't fill out timesheets--I won't know what they are doing."
There are several issues at hand in answering these questions. First, let's admit that there is a successful business or two out there that, without timesheets, seems to inspire and intellectually stimulate their human capital to be highly effective. That's the bottom line firms want, too, right? Effectiveness.
Then there's the question I have: if using timesheets to manage people helps us to be better managers, why are there so many partners and managers with very poor people management skills? (Could it be they are letting timesheets be the 'managers' in lieu of them?)
And, last time I checked, timesheets tell someone what somebody else did yesterday (lagging indicator). Not what they should be doing tomorrow (leading indicator). Shouldn't management focus on directing future results more than reading about past inputs?
Further, in a value pricing environment (one in which we aren't considering hours as a factor in price) we need to assure we are delivering value to our customers in accordance with the expectations we set and the prices we ask. To accomplish this, we need a means of assuring we do the 'right things' (usually client-oriented things as opposed to our own 'realization') to meet those expectations.
So how do we make sure we and the people we manage are doing the "right things tomorrow"?
We must align individual efforts with the goals of the firm which, for optimal firm success, should be aligned with the objectives of the client and establish Key Predictive Indicators for the firm's success through meeting customer expectations and needs.
Ron's newest book entitled Measuring What Matters to Customers: Using Key Predictive Indicators covers this in excellent detail, yet it's an easy read at only 200 pages. You can buy it from Wiley at VeraSage Institute's preferred pricing. (If you don't see -15% applied at checkout, enter code aff15 in the Promotion Code field and click the Apply Discount button.)
Ron's other books including three FREE PDF books can be found at VeraSage's website. The PDF books are: Trashing Timesheets, Burying the Billable Hour (on the move to Value Pricing) and You Are Your Customer List (on customer selection and DEselection).
Full disclosure: I am a Senior Fellow of VeraSage Institute but I do not benefit financially from the organization or any book sales.