Ten Not-So-Obvious Time Management Tips
Organizations can be more efficient and effective if work is properly planned and delegated. Personal working habits should also be efficient. There are lots of things happening during the day that impact your work. You are trying to work on many things that need help from others. Other people are also working on many things that rely on help from you. Here are some time management techniques that may not be so obvious.
- You all know about writing down the things you need to do during the day. This is the classic to-do list. It is always the place to start.
- Properly schedule your activities. Make sure you should book time for yourself to do things you need to get done.
- Allow some time for unexpected events and interruptions.
- Try to plan variety. Lack of variety will only make you tired, and it is hard to do good work when you're tired. A lack of variety can also make your job boring.
- Avoid over-commitment. It is not always easy, but the following steps could help:
- Do not be afraid to say no
- If something is not your job, say so
- If you do not know how to do something, say so (although you need to be open to learning)
- If you do not have time for something, say so
- That being said, you cannot say no to everything. If your help is really needed you should try to assist. You need to collaborate with others if you expect them to collaborate with you.
- Always be prepared by carrying a little work around with you, so that you can use free time effectively.
- Confirm appointments to avoid mix-ups.
- If people keep you waiting, ask them to come to you in the future.
- If you have subordinates, see if some work is appropriate to delegated - recognizing you don't want to overload them either.
Seven Steps to Manage Stakeholder Expectations
You performed an initial stakeholder analysis when you defined and chartered the project. The stakeholder analysis should also be updated periodically to ensure that stakeholders are being engaged successfully. If the stakeholders are not being engaged as you wished, you should update or change your activities. It is possible that you will also discover new stakeholders as the project progresses, and they should be accounted for in this process as well.
- Establish an agreement. This is probably the most overlooked yet most obvious piece. It is difficult or impossible to manage stakeholder expectations if you do not have some agreement to begin with. You need to agree on what the expectations are.
- Manage change. Once an agreement has been reached, changes should be managed through the change management process. This ensures that the stakeholder approves all changes and helps keep expectations in line.
- Communicate proactively. When the agreement has been reached, continue to communicate proactively through the status reporting process or as part of a broader Communication Management Plan – especially if there are any problems meeting the expectations. This helps the stakeholder keep up-to-date on progress, issues, risks, etc. The main motivation is to avoid surprises.
- Periodically assess performance. The project manager should be assessing expectations on an ongoing basis. If it looks unlikely that you will meet expectations, immediate steps should be taken to get back on track.
- Deliver against the expectations. Again, this may seem obvious. However, once an agreement has been put into place, you need to make sure that you deliver as expected. One of the weaknesses on the part of many people is that they do not fulfill their agreed-upon expectations, and they do not communicate with the stakeholder to inform them of the status and acknowledge the missed expectation.
- Reset expectations if necessary. If you determine that the original agreement cannot be satisfied, the agreement should be re-negotiated. This process includes gathering the facts surrounding the inability to meet the original agreement. In addition, alternative courses of action should be formulated to determine how to perform as closely to the original agreement as possible in a way that will satisfy both parties. Once a modified agreement has been reached, reset the expectations and begin the work necessary to meet the requirements of the new agreement.
- Complete the agreement. Review the completed work with the stakeholder to ensure that the terms of the agreement have been fully met. If not, negotiate what will be required to fulfill the agreement.
Communicate Proactively Based on Your Project Size
You all know the drill. You are doing a heroic job managing a project, solving problems, providing leadership to the team, and trying to get all the work done on time and within budget. However, when your manager or your client asks how the project is going, you reply “oh fine”.
Many project managers try to communicate with the minimum possible effort and in the fewest words. Part of this hesitancy is a lack of comfort with written and verbal communication in general. It could also be that most project managers simply do not understand the value that proactive communication provides to a project.
Status Reports Satisfy Basic Communication Requirements
Status Reports provide feedback to the key stakeholders on the current status of the project and the work that has been completed since the last communication. These are also forums to discuss outstanding issues, scope change requests, risks, etc. The main purpose of the status reports is to manage expectations, and make sure there are no surprises.
Create a Communication Plan for Large Projects
On larger projects, especially those that impact a wide variety of people, the basic status report is no longer enough. The communication needs to be proactive, multifaceted and targeted. This is the time for establishing a formal Communication Plan. In a Communication Plan, you think about your major stakeholders, their information needs and the best way to satisfy those needs. Then you tailor specific types of communication to meet the particular needs of each audience.
Use Collaborative Software as Projects Get Larger
Large projects generally have a large number of stakeholders. The stakeholders also tend to be diverse and dispersed. You should consider software packages and collaborative tools that facilitate sharing documents and enable easy communication.
Communication - Just Do It!
You have all heard the simple saying, “communicate, communicate, communicate”. Project managers should take this to heart. There are many aspects of a project that are not totally within your hands. Communication, however, is something that is directly within your control. You might be surprised how smoothly your project progresses when you communicate proactively to the team, clients and stakeholder
Here Are Three Techniques for Managing Small Scope Changes
Everyone can recognize and appreciate that a scope change request must be invoked for large changes to the project. However, you may encounter resistance to formal scope change management for small change requests. The sponsor and other project team members may consider this to be unnecessary overhead for such small decisions.
They might be right. There are three alternate techniques to employ that may help with small changes. None of these options implies that you are not managing and tracking scope changes. These are just additional techniques to use that may be more appropriate for managing small scope changes.
- Batching. It is not always practical to get the sponsor to approve all small scope change requests each time one is requested. It is a better use of time to batch the small changes up into a bundle. This means that you keep track of the small scope changes, their business value and their impact on the project. Then, when they hit a certain threshold, you take them all to the sponsor for approval. For example, instead of visiting the sponsor ten times for small scope changes, you batch the small changes together and see the sponsor one time.
- Discretion. The sponsor can delegate approval of small scope change requests to a more tactical customer manager. The ability to approve small changes usually assumes that the changes do not make the project exceed the agreed-upon cost or duration. If the project is in any risk of not meeting its cost or duration commitments, this discretion should not be used – even for a one-hour change request. In this case, all changes should go through a normal scope change process (like batching) to receive corresponding budget and schedule relief for any changes.
- Scope Change Contingency Budget. Your organization may recognize that a certain level of scope change is inevitable and you may be allowed to allocate a percentage of the total project budget to account for small changes. For example, you may have a 5% contingency added to your budget for scope change. If your total project budget was $500,000, your scope change contingency budget would be $25,000 for small scope changes. The customer must rationalize the budget to make sure all important scope changes can be accommodated. If the customer uses the budget up early on small scope changes, there will be nothing left for later change requests. This budget is used for change requests under a certain dollar or hour threshold. Larger requests still go through normal scope change management and be evaluated by the sponsor.
Should You Implement Time Reporting
for Internal Projects?
Every company that has a consulting or professional services organization is familiar
with time reporting. It only makes sense that if you provide services to customers on a time and materials basis, you need to accurately allocate your time to them. Some
organizations also require time reporting for their internal staff in both the operating units and on projects. It makes sense for some of the exact same reasons it does for external customers.
- It allows your company to determine exactly where your money is being spent, and allows you to determine if this allocation is appropriate. For instance, you may find that too many of your dollars are being spent supporting operations and not enough is being spent on projects. Or you may find that too many hours are allocated to internal departments (Finance, Human Resources, etc.) and not enough is being spent on the revenue-generating business units.
- Time reporting allows you to gather more factual information on the specific types of work people are doing. For instance, you may find your accounting staff is spending too many hours on end-of-month closeout, which would motivate you to streamline the process.
- IT staff can tell how their hours are allocated to business units. The business units will no longer have only a fuzzy perception of the labor being utilized on their behalf.
- You can track time on projects. Project managers estimate costs and duration based on an understanding of how many hours are needed on the project and how many resources are available to work the hours. Time reporting allows you to compare your estimated hours against the actual hours so that your estimates can be more accurate in the future.
Expect Cultural Resistance
The biggest drawback is a cultural one, but it should not be ignored. Generally, people hate to have to track their time. They will tell you it is such a burden - even though it takes maybe 5-10 minutes per week. Implementing time reporting must be recognized as a culture change initiative.