With more and more precise watches, we seem to get closer to the phenomenon of time since the sundials of the Egyptians. However, our everyday experience creates the expectation that time is running constantly – at least as long as we don’t climb a mountain or leave Earth with a spaceship. And in addition, our perception also beats us so much. If a lot happens, then we get into the flow and the diverting span from the last look at the watch to the next passes without noticeable duration. On the other hand, if nothing happens, you develop the boring feeling that time stands still. The dynamization of time can be perceived in moving pictures, the film – 24 frames per second provide a smooth flow. Movies are also captured with special cameras that deliver 360 to 25 million frames per second, which allows the stretching of time (slow motion) by playing the movie at normal speed of 24 frames per second. In addition, two basic time cultures have evolved – mono vs. poly.
To understand the differences between Mono and Poly, we’ll look at the following areas.
Monochron is determined by a line of events that take place one after the other – one section at a time.
Activities follow a schedule.
Private and business are stubbornly separated.
Appointments are considered as one point in time.
Breaks and personal time are stubbornly adhered.
Polychronic can be seen at parallel events taking place in one time frame – many things happen simultaneously.
Activities are harmonized through personal relationships.
Private & business are always interwoven.
Appointments are regarded as a vague range.
Breaks and personal time are adapted to the circumstances at any time.
Personal relationships are subordinate to schedules.
The current schedule is subordinate to the personal relationships.
Time is considered fixed and stable, clearly distinguished sections are considered separately and time flows linearly.
Time is seen as fluid and variable, sections are overlapping and running again and again.
Monochronic guidelines insist on appointment arrangements, speed and punctuality.
Polychronic rules allow vague appointments, sedateness and unpunctuality.
Monochronic societies are found in:
· Central and Northern Europe
· North America (USA, Canada)
Polychronic societies are found in:
· Southern Europe (Mediterranean)
· Middle East
· South America
Tensions arise when these opposing time feelings meet and have to work together. The completely different expectations cause stress in the other people. Since the individual parties cannot simply switch over, at least those involved should be aware that the conflicts that arise are not malicious, but different, valid approaches.
Bottom line: Mono- and polychronic sense of time determines the rhythm of everyday business life. The resulting incompatibility of time cultures influences activities, relationships, structures and norms in the different regions of the world. The conflicts arise, when appointments are seen as binding or not, or time dominates relationships or vice versa, or when fixed times meet fluid times, or when punctuality meets unpunctuality, if there is a meeting at all. These resulting difficulties are the outcome of the respective education and not an expression of lack of respect. Since one group cannot imagine that the other is ticking differently, it is important to be aware of these differences and to react tolerantly. In the end, the two concepts of time complement each other and can be used to the advantage of the company in certain situations.
The image that we have of project managers is determined by our imagination. A project is a temporary undertaking of different size with a clear start and end as well as the required resources – personnel, budget, and infrastructure. Managers are personalities with the role that includes controlling the activities with wide-ranging authority and responsibility for the results. In the end, a project manager actually is a doer, founder, employer, entrepreneur, or leader. The fact that this task is often limited to the role of a clerk or a coordinator without power, explains the fact that projects often do not achieve their objectives.
The company founder normally starts one business at a time. The wrong expectations towards project leaders result in a lack of empowerment and are reflected in the number of parallel projects to be managed – a single project has 100% attention (40 hours per week); each of four projects 25% (10 hours per week); with eight projects 13% each (5 hours per week). Depending on the modus operandi (e.g. PMBoK, PRINCE, GPM or even agile approaches) the activities may differ. However, in any case, communication with the participants has to take place, the team has to be led on request and daily and weekly reports have to be prepared.
Required communication This includes the taking care of emails, phone calls and meetings. On average, we have to deal with 21 to 50 daily emails and 11 to 50 phone calls. In addition, meetings with the project teams, managers and external parties are needed, each of which takes between 15 to 60 minutes or even more. With several projects, the project manager sometimes only has one hour per week for this exchange.
Appropriate leadership Leading includes personal alignment with employees and managers (e.g. feedback, target agreement, personal career), solving disputes and crises, and providing motivation and support. With in a year, this quickly accounts for 20% of working time – i.e. one day per week across various projects. Of these eight hours per week, sometimes only one hour is available for leadership per initiative.
Mandatory reports Comprehensibility is the essential purpose of the reports. Many addressees assume that up-to-dateness, accuracy, consistency and significance come at the push of a button. However, the project manager ensures through random samples that the data and figures provided by the team members are in a timely and correct manner that fit to each other. Daily controlling is the prerequisite for always up-to-date data that are regularly integrated to overarching reports.
Overarching tasks The summary of the daily data to weekly, monthly, quarterly milestone and final reports regarding the progress of the project, the employees deployed, the financial consumption as well as the need for action and decision making creates for various stakeholders a current overview. In addition, certain tasks take place weekly, such as the start and end of the week, including lessons learned and plan adjustments. The number of reports can vary from one project to another. With multiple projects, the project manager may merely spend an hour a week to produce conclusive reports in the respective initiative.
Remaining time The rest is available for other spontaneous tasks – content-related, relational and personal activities. With several projects, the project manager may have only one hour per week for unexpected tasks.
Bottom line: It should be clear that this workload cannot be compensated by overtime. Projects are the form for today’s tasks. If one takes the objectives seriously and really wants to achieve the desired results, then those ordering parties should offer under all circumstances the project management the chance to commit oneself to one project or to accept the fact that the project will fail with a two-thirds probability. Otherwise: Project managers with five parallel projects have only eight hours per project and week.