What Will My Successor be doing on Thursdays and Fridays?

A Lighthearted but potentially serious question

This post is based on an editorial piece I wrote for the Q4 2019 Institute of Water Journal which was focused on leadership and management

Would you like your managers to be looking for work to do, rather than struggling to meet objectives? And having time to develop their teams, improving their productivity? Surely not possible…

Big Hairy Ambitious Goals

I fully support the “Big Hairy Ambitious Goals” of Peter Simpson, Chief Exec of Anglian Water, and my experience suggests that a BHAG of a step change in management productivity is possible.

Of course, if you don’t try, you’ll never find out…

Why Managers?

My experience says get your managers right and the rest will follow. This is no disrespect for technical skills. Great managers develop their staff with the technical and soft skills they need, even if it allows them to move on.

Spread wings

Managers operate in complex environments, so being able to understand and react to change is critical. Give the willing opportunities to move around the company and work on multi-disciplinary projects to gain experience.

Who knows what that might lead to?

My Story

A while back I was Water Quality Manager for Network Appointee Variation (NAV) company for three years. Later I was the Interim Water Quality Monitoring Manager for a regional water company for nine months.

Both were full-time positions which I did on three days a week as a contractor. Yet everything needed was done right, and I went home by 6 at night. And happily fitted in my other roles, had some time off, and generally enjoyed the situation.

So, in both cases my successor could have had Thursdays and Fridays off and still got their work done. But they didn’t.

And my secret was?

Doing the right things at the right time. Sound simple doesn’t it? And it can be.

With only three day a week, the two essentials were focus and activity. Focus
means deciding what’s important and activity means doing the required tasks.

Below are some of the ideas that helped me achieve focus and activity .

Questioning myself

Is what I’m doing useful?”, making me check that I was doing the right things.

Is this what I should be doing?”, to avoid displacement activity.

“What is the least I can do with this?”, when faced with unattractive work.

What can I do in the next 10 minutes?”, to make use of small slots of productive time that add up.


Meetings are important but I always questioned my attendance, contacting the
organiser to discuss giving written reports or just attending for a slot.

Both options were great time savers.


Scheduling activity is important, but don’t over-schedule. Plan your day to the last minute and I guarantee it won’t work.

Monthly, weekly and daily objectives work for me. Find what works for you.

Learning from other people

With the NAV I worked alongside people with of years of NAV experience, so
I invested time learning from them.

With the regional water company, I invested time with the team managers, finding what was working and what needed

Both saved me hours of learning the hard way.

No change for change’s sake

In both roles I started with “no change for change’s sake”. Understanding why an unsatisfactory situation has arisen is as important as negotiating solutions
to avoid time-wasting mistakes.

When negotiating change, my rule is to involve those affected by it. Change imposed from above is seldom as effective as change involving those affected.

It always pays off in the longer term.

Be good with MS Office

Properly good. Styles in Word and Tables and Tables in Excel can save you hours.

Over to you

These are some ideas that have worked for me over 40 years in the industry.
They may work for you, or you may need to find different solutions.

Whichever, please ask the question “If I had to do my job in three days a week, how would I do it?”. Perhaps you could achieve a BHAG of your own.


I hope you found this post useful and enjoyed reading it. If you have any comments or want to share your experiences, leave a comment below.

Bob Windmill

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