Good project managers are usually in high demand so it can be difficult to convince senior management of the benefits of building in some downtime between project assignments. You may also face resistance from PMs themselves if your organization tracks and evaluates staff based on utilization.
Beyond providing PMs with much needed vacation or opportunities for formal professional development, what are some of the value-add activities that you could use to convince the naysayers?
- This downtime provides the opportunity to develop new organization knowledge assets (e.g. templates, lessons to be learned). While conducting a lessons learned session or archiving project documentation are normal project closeout activities, it is hard to add the costs of making the output of these truly useful to the budget of the project. Also, having a PM perform these activities immediately after a project avoids the memory loss that would occur if they were done much later.
- If the organization does not have a staffed PMO, downtime after a project is completed could be used to enhance or refactor PM methodologies and practices.
- Coaching is a key ingredient in cultivating good PMs. PMs that are on the bench can be assigned to support more junior PMs by providing advice on key decisions, reviewing PM artifacts or by facilitating workshops. This sort of “parachute” support is not a substitute for a long term mentoring relationship but it does help, especially in organizations that don’t have a formal process for supporting the development of PMs.
- Helping sponsors exploit the benefits of their projects. In the first few days after a project is completed, the sponsor might feel overwhelmed with operational responsibilities and while the PM’s role traditionally ends at closeout, their knowledge of the deliverables and the relationships they developed across the organization could be a valuable asset to achieving expected outcomes.
For the pessimists amongst us, the final rationale could be that creativity and enthusiasm are resources that can’t be continuously consumed without an opportunity for replenishment. PMs are often drained physically and mentally at the end of a project, and this poses a very real risk to the next project they take on. By building in mini-sabbaticals between assignments, the opportunity is provided to de-stress while still adding value, and the gratification the PM receives from contributing the the development of other PMs or to their organization’s assets may be more fulfilling than what could be achieved by a few days off.