L&D: Cycle Time or Touch Time or On Time?

It’s Way Past Time to Clarify Time As a Measure

The Train is due in at 5 pm. Is that clear?


The 5 O’Clock Train a couple of days late – but arriving at 5 pm – is late.

On Time in a sense – but days late none-the-less.

Dimensions of Time

Cycle Time – End to end how long does it take? That is one dimension of time as a measure – as a standard. And that’s either with normal, typical distractions – or not. What’s the reality? What is authentic?

Should we expect Guy to get those 12 Tasks done in 3 hours – even though the Performance Context has distractions galore – that are also part of his responsibility-set? Or should our standard be 4 hours?

And … standard for which Context – on the job – or in training?

Touch Time – If you took out all of the distractions that were appropriately attended to, how much time is it OK to spend On Task or Tasks? Is it the 3 hours of Touch Time within a 4 hour band of Cycle Time?

If I’m Training Guy – so he can Learn How To Perform (No Kidding) – I would want the final Application Exercises to test whether of not he can do it within the 3 hours unencumbered with the authentic distractions AND whether or not he can do it within 4 hours with distractions. With and Without.

On Time – And sometimes the standard is to be On Time. At 5 O’Clock. On Fridays (Eastern). Deadline date and time. A.K.A.: Drop Dead date and time.

And sometimes no one really cares about the Touch Time or Cycle Time – whatever that takes – because perhaps there is so much variation in the authentic Performance Context (read: real world) that we expect the Performer, Guy, to figure this out for this time, and every time, just how long it’s going to take (Touch Time) and how much time he should give himself this time (Cycle Time) and every time – so that he isn’t late – and he is On Time.

But there are exceptions – as always.

Hurry Up and Wait

As a former member of the military in my youth, I experienced the phenomenom of the Hurry Up and Wait syndrome. Hundreds if not thousands of times in my 3 year cycle (term of duty). Boot Camp, on the ship, then at school, then back on the ship, etc.

It frustrated many of my fellow shipmates and schoolmates and participants in that Team Building and Bonding exercise called Boot Camp.

Given all the downtime one experiences – during the Wait portion of “Hurry Up and Wait” – one either learned how to catch some zzz’s anywhere at any time – or one contemplated the broader philosophical questions of the day. Such as, WTH!?!

It came to me during one particular moment of tired inspiration in the moments of Wait – after much perspiration due to the Hurry Up segment – that the military had figured this out due to the Consequence System. The Consequences to them. So they engineered Consequences for everyone else.

You had 3 choices:

  1. Be Early
  2. Be On Time
  3. Be Late

There is – BTW – only one choice that’s acceptable.

Be Late – in the Navy it might be miss ship’s movement where you run to the pier but the gangway has been pulled and mooring lines undone and the ship as embarked without you – and you are in a world of doo doo – to say it nicely. Or you can be late to Mustering on the Deck for Roll Call. Etc. None of it is good.

All of it is remedied by severe consequences to help one learn to avoid those consequences in the future. Consequences such as Captain’s Mast (they used to tie one to the mast and apply the whip back in the day) where they might toss you into the Brig for a week or two and deduct a large portion of your pay for a few pay cycles.  Stuff like that. And no, they don’t Keel Haul sailors any more. But they used to. Ah. Consequences.

Be On Time – Being On Time is the point, right? Well, yes. But that’s not really acceptable either.

You see, from a Risk Management point of view – being On Time is just a hair’s breadth away from Being Late – so close in fact that the two could be thought of as synonymous. And Being Late, well, we’ve already covered that. That just ain’t No Good.

Murphy – as in Murphy’s Law – exists in the military BIG TIME – and battles have been lost – and probably the whole damn wars – because someone was late to the party that one time. Or just a hair’s breadth away from being On Time.

Be Early – Being Early is the only acceptable situation in the military most of the time. There are exceptions. Coming in for the landing on the aircraft carriers’ pitching deck in the dark of night – too early – ain’t no good at all either. So – it depends. It’s situational.

But otherwise – being early – and being way early – is much preferred to being just a little bit early. Just a little bit early is too damn close to being On Time.

Get it?

Back to Training for Learning

When it’s time for you set standards for Performance Competence – the ability to Perform Tasks to Produce Outputs to Stakeholder RequirementsNo Kidding – it might be different standards for time that you need to consider, such as “Cycle/Touch/Deadline.”


And then different standards for the time standards in the Training to Learn Context than the Back on the Job Context time standards.

They are related – but may differ. The ones Back on the Job are established by the Stakeholders. The ones in Training are established by the Designer – or if you use an approach like mine, those are established/decided by Master Performers who understand the nuances of the Performance Context that an Observer, Interviewer, and Reviewer of Documents/etc, will never have.

That’s just one of the reasons why I use a Facilitated Group Process in both my Analysis and Design efforts if at all possible.

The other reason is to save Cycle Time. Another is to reduce my Touch Time. And another is to hit a short Deadline.

Check the clock. Do you know where your Stakeholders are?

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