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Management article
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Reference no. 98202
Published by: Harvard Business Publishing
Published in: "Harvard Business Review", 1998

Abstract

Most companies change in reaction to events such as moves by the competition, shifts in technology, or new customer demands. In fairly stable markets, "event pacing" is an effective way to deal with change. But successful companies in rapidly changing, intensely competitive industries take a different approach. They change proactively, through regular deadlines. Kathy Eisenhardt of Stanford and Shona Brown of McKinsey have studied this alternative approach, which they call time pacing. Like a metronome, time pacing creates a rhythm to which managers can synchronize the speed and intensity of their efforts. For example, 3M dictates that 25% of its revenues every year will come from new products, Netscape introduces a new product about every six months, and Intel adds a new fabrication facility to its operations approximately every nine months. Time pacing creates a relentless sense of urgency around meeting deadlines and concentrates people on a common set of goals. Its predictability also provides people with a sense of control in otherwise chaotic markets. The authors show how companies such as Banc One, Cisco Systems, Dell Computer, Emerson Electric, Gillette, Intel, Netscape, Shiseido, and Sony implement the two essentials of time pacing. The first is managing transitions--the shift, for example, from one new-product- development project to the next. The second is setting the right rhythm for change. Companies that march to the rhythm of time pacing build momentum, and companies that effectively manage transitions sustain that momentum without missing important beats. This piece presents important new thinking on one of the most demanding challenges managers face today.

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Abstract

Most companies change in reaction to events such as moves by the competition, shifts in technology, or new customer demands. In fairly stable markets, "event pacing" is an effective way to deal with change. But successful companies in rapidly changing, intensely competitive industries take a different approach. They change proactively, through regular deadlines. Kathy Eisenhardt of Stanford and Shona Brown of McKinsey have studied this alternative approach, which they call time pacing. Like a metronome, time pacing creates a rhythm to which managers can synchronize the speed and intensity of their efforts. For example, 3M dictates that 25% of its revenues every year will come from new products, Netscape introduces a new product about every six months, and Intel adds a new fabrication facility to its operations approximately every nine months. Time pacing creates a relentless sense of urgency around meeting deadlines and concentrates people on a common set of goals. Its predictability also provides people with a sense of control in otherwise chaotic markets. The authors show how companies such as Banc One, Cisco Systems, Dell Computer, Emerson Electric, Gillette, Intel, Netscape, Shiseido, and Sony implement the two essentials of time pacing. The first is managing transitions--the shift, for example, from one new-product- development project to the next. The second is setting the right rhythm for change. Companies that march to the rhythm of time pacing build momentum, and companies that effectively manage transitions sustain that momentum without missing important beats. This piece presents important new thinking on one of the most demanding challenges managers face today.

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