I’ve written previously about the project issues resulting from the inability of resource managers to accurately estimate team member availability – one of the main contributors to this problem is multitasking.
In many organizations, there is not the luxury of being able to dedicate resources to work on a single project and staff are expected to work on multiple projects concurrently while also juggling their operational and administrative responsibilities. Much research has been conducted into the corrosive effects of excessive multitasking but resource constraints combined with ineffective work intake and prioritization practices usually cause management teams to ignore these impacts.
As there is not likely to be any improvement to this situation anytime soon, project managers need to minimize the impacts of multitasking on their projects’ constraints and objectives.
While the role of the “hurdle remover” is a common expectation for PMs managing agile projects, it equally applies to traditional ones.
1. Assist your team members in decomposing their work activities to a level of detail that will minimize wasted effort spent when context switching back to your project. Ideally, each work effort sprint that a team member commits should be able to result in the completion of at least one “inch pebble”.
2. Respect their time. Avoid introducing unnecessary project administrative activities and minimize the number of meetings that they need to participate in – ideally, only invite them to project meetings where they are expected to contribute content or make decisions. At the same time, make sure that they are well aware of the mandatory administrative procedures, and strive to reduce the effort and frustrations involved with completing these.
3. Leverage collaborative technologies to capture and share useful project information in a centralized, easy-to-search fashion, and make sure that key updates are organized chronologically to help team members quickly learn what’s new.
4. Respect their normal working hours unless there is a legitimate crisis that demands overtime from team members. It might not seem like a big deal to expect 10% additional effort each week from your team members, but if each project or functional manager using these resources expects the same overtime, these over-allocations will rapidly become unsustainable. You’ll find that the quality of work and overall productivity will actually increase if team members are able to work reasonable hours.
5. Makes sure they are aware of what the benefits of the project are to the organization, as well as what the value of their contribution is to the project and to their own professional development. This is likely a message that you’ve already delivered during the project kickoff meeting, but it needs to be reinforced on a regular basis to ensure that your project is not the lowest priority one in their minds. Just as a project needs to be “sold” on an ongoing basis to executives to ensure sustained funding, the same holds true for the team members being asked to commit their efforts to its completion.
6. Respect the role of the resource manager, and keep them apprised of potential resource overruns so that they can proactively work with governance committees to avoid impacts to operations or to other projects.
While you might not have secured commitments for 100% of your team members’ working time availability, cut waste and knock down hurdles to make the most productive use of the precious time you are given.