Time-span and Time Compression: New Challenges Facing Contemporary Leaders

Stephen D. Clement

Abstract


In his over 50 years of research, Dr. Elliott Jaques discovered that managers operating at successive organizational layers are concerned about events occurring further and further out into the future. As a result of this effort, Jaques developed a measuring instrument he called time-span. Time-span was intended to discover the maximum amount of time a manager requires a subordinate to work on his own account. He subsequently developed a useful heuristic that identified the appropriate time-span, (e.g., the level of work) for each successive organizational layer in a properly structured organization. Jaques and his Associates utilized the time-span instrument in a series of research studies conducted on various U.S. Army Headquarters Organizations. The researchers found that many staff members were operating at too low a level. This resulted in some of the more longer-term work not getting done. In a unique follow-on study involving military individuals who operated in both wartime situations and peacetime ones, Clement found that the time-span instrument did not always accurately predict level of work. It was discovered that many individuals in the wartime environment experienced time-compression. These individuals focused on much shorter time related issues. A seminal conclusion from this research effort was that the time-span measure sometimes had to be modified due to the unique characteristics of vastly different work situations, e.g., wartime, severe financial conditions, rapid changes in technology, etc. This modification was referred to as the time-compression phenomenon.


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References


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