Trailblazer Update: Brains on Fire, Two Months Without Timesheets

Our Trailblazer friends at Brains On Fire have provided another update on their progress of transitioning to a firm of the future.

This one is life without timesheets for two months. You can read Brandy Amidon’s blog post here.

I especially liked her “Triumphs,” section, which I challenge any firm that uses timesheets to think real hard about:


  1. We are able to predict the currents month’s net income before the month begins. We can look at our projects estimated percentage complete for the month and say this is where we will land. Instead of waiting till the end of the month, after we’ve grossed everything up and then start writing things off. We were worried about losing control of profitability when we switched off time sheets. Now we have more control and power to see into the future (now I can throw away our eight ball).
  2. We’ve became closer as a team. AE’s aren’t afraid to ask more people to join in on a project if need be. No more fear of going “over” on a job. We are coming together as a team to provide the greatest benefit and exceeding our client’s expectations. I doubt it gets any better than that!

When we argue that firms need to ditch timesheets to truly appreciate all of the salutary effects that emerge (some of which we never anticipated), we are met with nothing but arguments. But how would you measure this, that, how would you know this or that, etc., etc.

But the dirty little secret is timesheets don’t provide any of this information now! It’s as if people who object to the idea are comparing life without timesheets to some Utopia of perfect measurement and balance.

But you have to compare not having timesheets to what you are doing now, not some Utopia that will never exist here on earth. This disadvantages of timesheets simply outweigh any advantages, and we’ve proven it over and over again.

There are essentially four defenses of timesheets:

  1. We need them to price.
  2. We need them for cost accounting.
  3. We need them to measure team productivity.
  4. We need them for resource and project management.

We’ve demolished every one of these arguments.

First, we need to better understand value to price correctly, not the time it takes to perform work.

Second, there are other ways to perform cost accounting than timesheets. This is what amazes me, especially with respect to CPAs. Do you really think timesheets are the ONLY METHOD of performing cost accounting? If you locked yourself in a dark room for an hour, could you come up with any other way? There are no other ways, really?

Third, timesheets don’t measure team productivity. They measure inputs, but productivity requires an output as well. Timesheets are silent as to output, both quantity and quality. Hence, Key Predictive Indicators are far superior at tracking team effectiveness.

Lastly, there is no doubt that in planning into the future, a firm may want to think about man hours, or man days, etc. But this is only in looking forward, it does no good looking backwards at this data. By then, the damage has already been done. Nor does it shed any light on how to do it better next time.

This is why we advocate performing After Action Reviews.

In any even, I bet if Brandy were to answer the four defenses of timesheets she could come up with arguments of her own why they don’t perform as conventionally believed.

But to truly understand it, you have to a take a leap of faith and trash them. It’s the only way to liberate your mind and body from the tyranny of time.

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