Time Management

Do you ever feel like you are always very busy, have many projects in flux but nothing ever gets done? As a Project Manager, I have the opportunity to work with clients of various sizes and industries managing their projects and/or portfolios and performing various assessment, analysis and advisory services. In this role, I have insight into common problems that organizations face and I’ve noticed a trend. In an effort to improve processes, new ideas surface leading to new projects and tasks for resources to complete. While most have intentions of increasing productivity, at times they are assigned to resources without considering a very important component: the big picture.

How many projects are already in progress? What value will they deliver? How do they align with the organization’s vision and objectives? Is the business ready?

As the work piles up, we get stuck in a routine. Project resources are strained trying to meet deadlines and quite often clarity gets lost. It becomes difficult to stop and “plan.” Who has time for that anyway? Therefore the cycle continues, making it critical to ask: Are we using time to our advantage?

Prioritization is the cornerstone to making sure the efforts of today are delivering the value for tomorrow. Projects need to be prioritized and reprioritized as new projects are added and as business evolves. Depending on the amount and complexity of projects in your portfolio, this could be simple, however there are many factors to consider. Weeding through the project list to indicate the level of urgency and importance is a starting point. Analyzing the projects both not started and in progress by assessing their value and alignment with organizational goals is key. Equally important is the need to evaluate the level of operational readiness for each project including data, processes, operations, users, environment, technology and support. Implementing projects before the organization is ready can be catastrophic.

Time is a constraint for us all. We must find a way to use it to the best of our ability. From an organizational standpoint, estimating effort required for projects as well as noting the current status of those in progress and remaining effort required for completion will help in identifying their chronology. No matter how important a project is to an organization cost typically can be influential in prioritization as projects that are “over budget” may get dismissed or pushed to another fiscal year. At times I have seen companies modify the scope of a project to bring down cost to achieve the most critical goals. Lastly, don’t forget about the relationships between projects. There may be prerequisites or dependencies present that will impact the order for implementation causing a project that you may feel is less important to require implementation before one with higher priority.

As you can see, this can also be quite complex. I have assisted organizations in finding an approach that works for their culture as there is not a “one size fits all” method. Typically, I use ways to quantify the various factors mentioned to determine the sequence of projects. Roadmaps to project implementation and of value to be delivered are also very useful and provide a visual that all levels of the organization can understand including the executive team in order to get buy-in and support. One thing to keep in mind is that the roadmap is a baseline that will need to be adjusted over time as the business evolves to make sure prioritization remains accurate.

Finally, I will leave you with points that I have learned through working with various organizations over time: be flexible, expect change, implement a manageable number of projects at a time and work toward optimizing time spent on high value priorities to make the most of your time.