One of the most interesting findings about managerial activities is how busy managers are and how hectic the average workday can be. At Google, project managers Minnie Ingersoll never looks at her calendar more than five minutes in advance because her schedule is so frantic and things change so quickly. One a typical day, Ingersoll might have four meetings and a conference call before grabbing a quick lunch and catching up with work on her laptop . Managers at Google use scooters to zip back and forth to meetings in different buildings. Some top managers are event busier. Office Deport CEO Bruce Nelson typically works 14 hour days, visits stores in several different states each week, and is continuously tracking operations at 947 stores in eight time zones.
Adventures in Multitasking
Managerial activity is characterized by variety, fragmentation and brevity. The manager’s involvements are so widespread and voluminous that there is little time for quiet reflection. The average time spent on any one activity is less than nine minutes. Managers shift gear quickly. Significant crises are interspersed with trivial events in no predictable sequence. One example of just two typical hours for general manager, Janet Howard follows. Note the frequent interruptions and the brevity and variety of tasks.
7.30 am – Janet arrives at work and begins to plan her day.
7.37 am – A subordinate, Morgan Cook stops in Janet’s office to discuss a diner party the previous night and to review the cost benefit analysis for a proposed enterprise resource planning system.
7.45 am — Janet’s secretary Pat, motions for Janet to pick up the telephone. Janet they had serious water damage at the downtown office last night. A pipe broke, causing about $50,000 damage. Everything will be back in shape in three days.
8.00 am – Pat brings in the mail. She also asks instructions for formatting a report Janet gave her yesterday
8.14 am – Janet gets a phone call from the accounting manager, who is returning a call from the day before. They talk about accounting problems.
8.25 am – A Mr Nance is ushered in; Mr Nance complains that a sales manager mistreats his employees and something must be done. Janet rearranges her schedule to investigate this claim.
9.00 am – Janet returns to the mail. One letter is from an irate customer. Janet types out a helpful restrained reply. Pat brings in phone messages.
9.15 am – Janet receives an urgent phone call from Larry Baldwin. They discuss lost business, unhappy subordinates and a potential promotion.
Life on Speed Dial:
The manager performs a great deal of work at an unrelenting pace. Managers’ work is fast paced and requires great energy. The managers observed by Mintzberg processed 36 pieces of mail each day, attended eight meetings and took a tour through the building or plant. Technology such as e-mail, instant messaging, cell phones and Laptops have intensified the pace. It isn’t unusual for a manager to receive hundreds of e-mail messages a day. As soon as a manager’s daily calendar is set, unexpected disturbances erupt. New meetings are required. During time away from the office, executives catch up on work related reading paperwork and e-mail.
At O’Hare international Airport an unofficial count one Friday found Operations manager Hugh Murphy interacting with about 45 airport employees. In addition, he listened to the complaint from local residents about airport noise, met with disgruntled executives of a French firm who built the airport’s new $128 million people mover system., attempted to soothe a Hispanic city alderman who complained that Mexicana airlines passengers were being singled out by overzealous tow truck operators , toured the airport’s fire station, and visited the construction site for the new $20 million tower –and that as before the events of September 11, 2001 changed airport operations, making them even more complex . Hugh Murphy’s unrelenting pace is typical for managers. Management can be rewarding, but it can also be frustrating and stressful as discussed.