A Simple Time Management Framework For CEOs - Focused Selectively, Engaged Exhaustively

Whether an entrepreneur, lifestyle business enterprise owner, or top executive, a Chief Executive Officer's (CEO's) time is always in demand, and limited by issues, events, and activities competing for attention. It is important for CEOs to be organized - ensuring that they are focused selectively on what's important, but engaged exhaustively across their span of control to ensure adequate coverage.


Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) have the ultimate responsibility for the governance of both the administrative and operational activities of an enterprise, reporting to a board of directors or members, who are ultimately accountable to the investors. A CEO must be able to prioritize issues, events, and activities; develop plans and policies; and measure performance, while ensuring that the key functions are adequately addressed over time.

Much of a CEO's time is spent communicating plans, policies, and performance to constituencies, while delegating deployment and execution to the rest of the management team. However, it is important for a CEO to be in touch, both across and within the enterprise.

Whereas the issues and spans of control facing entrepreneurs, lifestyle business enterprise owners, and top executives in larger enterprises may differ, the functional coverage is essentially the same. In larger enterprises, the responsibility for the operational functions is often delegated to a Chief Operating Officer (COO), who may be a CEO in training.

Engaging across functions is the most exhaustive method of ensuring adequate coverage.

Smaller enterprises are usually organized solely by function, at least initially. Medium to larger enterprises are often organized by units. Units include product line, business line, or strategic business, in demographic or geographic markets, subdivided in divisions, departments, plants and branches. The functions can be addressed across or within the organizational units, depending upon significance.

The key questions for selective and exhaustive time management are:

Which issues, events, and activities should be prioritized as high, medium, or low, and why?
Who needs attention now, and why?
How should plans and policies be deployed and executed?
Where should time be spent and when - daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually?


  • Enterprise - investor and public relations, government affairs, brand management, community relationships, real estate, philanthropy, ombudsman, internal audit
  • Legal - regulatory protection and compliance, litigation
  • Finance - borrowing, financing, investing, credit extension, insurance
  • Human Resources - employment, compensation, training, development
  • Information Technology - analytical and operational systems


  • Research and Development - innovation, program and project management, engineering: markets, products, infrastructure
  • Operations - procurement, manufacturing (or equivalent in non-manufacturing enterprises), distribution
  • Business Development - marketing, sales, service

What should time be spent on and when (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually)?:

Planning and policy development:

  • Enterprise - aspiration (values, mission, vision, value proposition), industry and market position and posture
  • Competitive position and posture
  • Performance improvement - repositioning, restructuring, reengineering
  • Constituency (employees, customers, suppliers, investors, regulators, competitors): objectives, goals, targets, and strategic initiatives; collaborative and cooperative relationships
  • Functional, operational, and financial

Capabilities (capacities and abilities) for deployment and execution:

  • People - aptitude and proficiency
  • Processes and functions - effectiveness and efficiency
  • Products and/or services - benefits and features

Performance measurement - enterprise and constituencies (key indicators - rates, quantities, volumes, aging, ratios):

  • Financial - revenue, costs and expenses, profits, cash flows, returns on investment
  • Non-financial - market share and penetration, product usage, satisfaction, quality, time-to-market, cycle time, productivity, asset capacity and utilization, sustainability

How much time should be allocated to each function?

The answer depends upon the opportunities and threats that are critical to the enterprise at any point in time, and probability of return on investment, so selective focus is essential. But over time, all functions must be addressed so that coverage is exhaustive.

Time management is an enterpriship (entrepreneurship, leadership, and management) competency.

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