More Evidence Against the Logic of Timesheets

Michael Stewart, a member of one of our Trailblazer firms, sent me this email last month:

Hi Ron,

You’ll find a more eloquent and concise way of putting this I’m sure.

If firms have returned to timesheet because of scope creep…if you apply the same rationale in reverse, then firms would have abolished timesheet years ago because of write offs due to scope creep.

Ed Kless did suggest another way of putting it:

Some firms return to timesheet because they claim to experience scope creep. However, this is irrational because if that were the case then the converse would be true—they would have had to abandon timesheet when they experienced scope creep when originally tracking time.

Great points, no matter how you say it. The three defenses of timesheet are:

  1. We need them for pricing
  2. We need them for cost accounting, to determine if customers are profitable
  3. We need them for measuring the productivity of our team members

We’ve destroyed each of these arguments, especially #1 and #3.

Yet #2 persists. But how many firms have fired a client because they are unprofitable? Very few. That’s because even small customers are profitable, which is why even Top 100 firms are doing $500 tax returns.

If a customer is unprofitable, you’re a lousy pricer and a timesheet isn’t going to help.

If you don’t scope a job properly up-front, a timesheet is only going to inform you after the damage has been done—like timing your cookies with your smoke alarm.

The other defense is we need to have timesheets to learn how long jobs take for the future. But then when we preach Value Pricing, people say each and every job is unique and can’t estimated in advance. Which is it?

The defenses of timesheets are simply illogical given what they are actually used for, which is pricing. Price based on value, and timesheets are superfluous.


  1. And to add to what Ron has posted – we, at VeraSage have never said we are against resource planning. Ron calls this doing your time sheets in advance.

    Whenever someone is assigned a task it is more than acceptable to give them an estimate of the effort believed necessary. When they perform the task they should mental keep this in mind. If they perform the task within some threshhold say 25% then forget it am move on. If it is outside the threshold they should talk to someone about it. Perhaps they have innovated or misunderstood the assignment.

    More important, however, is for them to complete the task within the required duration estimate, not effort. For futher reading see –>

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