The Value of Your Time

Today’s editorial was originally published on Feb18, 2009. It is being re-published as Steve is on vacation.

I was talking with a friend the other day that’s in sales and he was working with a client on some new software upgrade. This is a long term relationship and my friend manages the client’s use of his company’s products, which are custom software programs. There was a mismatch of expectations in the presentation of a new product and the client wanted my friend on site for a day right away. So my friend sat around for a few hours waiting for approval to book travel and fly across the country for a two day trip to the client’s site. Since this was a trip being made with less than seven days notice, the CEO had to approve the travel.

The CEO of a 3,000+ person company had to approve a $1,500-2,000 trip for a sale worth tens of millions of dollars in revenue.

Now I might be exaggerating a bit how silly this seems because who knows how many trips get asked for each week. And having a policy around travel is sensible since people might abuse the company a bit in trips. But should the CEO be doing this? How much time and money is wasted by having the CEO look at these? Either he spends time on them, which is an incredibly wasteful use of time for someone that should be strategically thinking about running the business at a macro, not micro, level. Or he rubber stamps them, in which case he’s trusting his subordinates to do their due diligence. In which case he shouldn’t rubber stamp the approval; let the subordinates handle the decision making.

As a DBA, I’ve always been relatively well paid in most companies. Not $365k a year well paid, but making more money than a good portion of the IT staff. And I’ve always recognized that there are things I could do that waste the company’s money, and my time, if I’m doing them. You wouldn’t want me to take a part printers to figure out why paper is jamming any more than you’d want me to empty the trash cans every night as part of my daily work. You want me tuning SQL Servers, testing upgrades, writing code and more. That’s not to say I can’t refill a printer with paper, make coffee, or help someone solve a permissions problem, but it shouldn’t be something I do on a regular basis.

Each of us provides value to our companies, and while we should be willing to pitch in and help with most any job, we also should recognize that we are most efficient if we do those things that are the best use of our time.

Trust your people to do their jobs, and deal with things later if they don’t, but trust them up front.

Steve Jones

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