Managing a Team’s Workload
It can be a balancing act as a project manager when reviewing a team’s to-do list and also ensuring that the workload is equally shared. A critical component of this is getting the balance right. Project teams look towards the leader for clarification on what task to perform and when. Remember, no one works well when a project manager is hovering over their shoulder as tasks a being completed.
There are 5 steps which should be considered to ensure a team remains focused on the task at hand, and also make it easier for the project manager to manage the workload, without the team being micro managed.
Current Workload Review
If commencing from scratch, then a review of what is currently happening is required. This could have been initiated by a resource suggesting they are doing too many tasks, or from another team manager who has contacted the project manager stating that team resources have missed a deadline.
The project Manager must be mindful that they can only manage on what is known. Within a matrix environment, some of the resources are only available to work on project tasks for a portion of the week, so clarity is required.
Pinpoint over allocated resources
Look for people on the team who are over allocated. That just means resources have been given more work than they can actually do in the time available. A good rule is that people should be allocated to specific tasks only 80% of their time. The remaining 20% will be for answering phone calls, attending team meetings, dealing with the customer who calls with an urgent problem and so on.
The 20% should be spread out across the week; it’s better to fill people’s time for, say 6 hours per day, than give them every Friday with nothing to do apart from catch up on the things they weren’t able to finish earlier in the week.
Identifying under allocated resources
Constant review of resource reports and dashboards should identify resources that don’t have enough work to do. Keep the team motivated by ensuring they have meaningful tasks to fill the day.
In reality, team members will always make themselves look busy. They will find things to work on, perhaps taking on tasks of their own accord or helping out one of their colleagues. The time management system will help you understand if they are working on tasks that are deemed to be priority.
Clues to resource allocation in respect to over or under allocation can be extracted from them directly. Resources may ask for more work or point out that they can’t take on another assignment. This is where professional judgement is activated, meaning are they genuinely too busy or just working on the wrong tasks? Or possibly being unproductive? The better their strengths and work patterns are understood, the easier it will be to interpret what the time sheet system is indicating.
Skill sets and absences
A team’s workload can be better managed if it is known when resources will be available. Speak with them regarding upcoming leave, which should be included in any planning so work is not assigned to a resource that won’t be available.
Checking in on the team from time to time and discuss if their skills are up-to-date. This could eventuate in a resource being able to work on more projects than was originally anticipated, especially if they have developed new skills.
The fine line of balancing workloads is a skill, commence with the people who have too much work assigned to them. Split up the big tasks into smaller chunks and assign someone else to help them out. Or make the task stretch over a longer period so they have fewer hours to work on it each day. Consider moving some of their work to another member of the team who doesn’t have enough to do. Boost someone’s workload by asking them to take on another project, develop their skills or involve them in planning for next year.
Considering a change of assignment within the resource planning system, remember to speak with the resource involved first. That’s one of the key ways to ensure the team is content. This can be achieved by shifting resource requirements around to balance out the work and that it is not a reflection on their performance. In fact, as a result of workload planning the resources may end up with even better assignments.