PART 1—(Execution)

People are not working on the project and their management doesn’t know it

The execution phase is the stage that comes into play immediately after authorization and planning. While previous phases have eliminated risks and problems, more will be discovered in this phase. While the project manager and team must be alert to finding these problems and solving them as early as possible, there is a class of problems caused by lack of process.  In fact, some of these problems are caused by management who do not understand the processes needed for good project control, processes which also accelerate execution when present.  Read below to read the impacts caused by the lack of time reporting by all parties working on the project, and how to implement the solutions.

Characteristics and consequences

When there is no way to capture time worked, the capacity for projects is unknown.  When management does not know resource limits, it will continue to launch projects, increasingly with fewer resources to get them done.  When good, conscientious people are given too much to do, they work on everything…a little bit. 

The downward spiral continues as each person attempts to play catch up, attempting to get it all done. Inevitably, this type of work style is not effective, and output slows down. What you’re facing at this point is a serious case of poor team morale in which everyone feels stressed, on edge and inadequate. Even if the project finishes late and the result performs well, people will feel bad because they were late.

Solutions

Implement a process and system where people report all time worked, time worked on projects, overhead activities like training and operational work.  Time worked at home, time worked commuting, and, if you have an office, time worked in the office. Don’t worry about overtime; report all time worked to see what is really happening and to start to manage resource capacity.

Also, realize that teams often have a resistance to reporting their work activities. They often feel put on the defensive or that their professionalism is being questioned. To avoid such resistance, it’s important to let your team know from the beginning of a project that you are interested in “controlling projects, not people.” Emphasize the importance of reporting activities and how they keep the project on track. This will help to reduce fears and let your team know that time reporting is in their best interest also because it will ensure that their workloads remain reasonable and that the project is within the cost, schedule and performance constraints. Performing well for the client is the best way to raise morale.

Make sure that your line managers understand they are responsible for the accuracy of the data their people submit. Also, make sure project managers are actually using the reports provided to them in an effective manner to maximize project efficiency and effectiveness. Nothing hurts the effort of time reporting more than seeing that the reports go unused.  So, training of the project managers and reviewing the reports with them initially is an important task of the Manager of Project Managers.

Above all stick with the process and commit to continuous improvement.  Understand, that things won’t be perfect overnight. It can take up to three years to get real capacity management in place and working well.  However, the steps you take today to implement a recording and monitoring system that works will begin to resonate with team members until they are simply second nature.

Remember that time reporting is an element of resource capacity management.  The ultimate goal is to increase project throughput by working within our capacity. Number of completed projects per year is the metric we want to follow. This solution is in place and working in organizations with good practice maturity. Although the implementation is not easy, the benefits are certainly worth it.

For the entire Ask Cadence  – Project Problem podcast series, visit iTunes.