How Managers Perceive Real-Time Management

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Pernille Rydén of the Technical University of Denmark and Omar A. El Sawy of the University of Southern California. They recently published an article in the California Management Review entitled “How Managers Perceive Real-Time Management: thinking fast & flow,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they briefly describe the inspirations and challenges of this research:]

What motivated you to pursue this research?

We first met in 2014 when Professor El Sawy was giving a talk as part of the Renowned Scholars Seminar Series at the Department of Digitalization at Copenhagen Business School, Denmark. Here, we connected and discovered a common research interest in studies of the impacts of digitalization on management. In February 2015, at the University of Southern California, our second conversation ended up as a philosophical brainstorming session lasting several hours. The research idea was born.

Our motivation was sparked by a general curiosity on time as a resource and the many assumptions that relate to real time management strengthened by Professor El Sawy’s profound knowledge on Time Issues, gained from his PhD dissertation, teachings of MBA class on fast response management for almost a decade, plus a new course on real-time management. We then embarked on answering the open question of “what is real-time in the minds of managers?”

Were there any specific external events—political, social, or economic—that influenced your decision to pursue this research?

The profound societal changes triggered by technological disruption also influence our relation to time. We noticed how real time becomes increasingly important for the value proposition of enterprises and their ability to develop and innovate technology-driven products and services. At the same time, we see how people and societies are challenged by this acceleration of time demands. The “faster is better” seems to have severe consequences for people and societies in general and apparently sometimes for the worse, not the better. Many people cannot cope with the accelerating pace of technology and risk suffering from stress and burnout, which eventually slows down business productivity. Thus, there seems to be a need for critically considering how we approach time and the value assessment of real time.

What has been the most challenging aspect of conducting your research? Were there any surprising findings?

Since this took of as an explorative study we did not know in advance what direction the study would take. Instead of defining hypotheses and using them as constraining light posts we decided to let the data speak to us, hoping that surprising findings would appear from the data. We tapped into the knowledge potential there is in the “go with the flow” of inductively conducting this type of research. Luckily we were rewarded with surprising empirical as well as theoretical findings. The results indicate that faster is not always better, and that flow is an alternative way to go.

This study embraces the product focus as well as the customer focus to address this paradox (expressed by the famous Henry Ford quote) “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses” even though the faster horses eventually will kick them off. The quote is meant to highlight that real-time management is about understanding the underlying drivers of accelerating time and be able to navigate managerial practices accordingly. Those who are able to harness that may stand a better chance of creating lasting value with digital technologies for customers and business.

For more from the journal click here!

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