Tag: Project Managers

Workplace Productivity how can it help PM’s?

Workplace Productivity and Project Management

Increasing productivity in the workplace greatly improves chances of delivering a project on time and within budget. Therefore, understanding all about workplace productivity is key to success. There are benefits to increasing a team’s productivity which can be measured. By establishing a benchmark setting and with the use of specialized tools, all assist in bringing the project home.

Productivity is how to efficiently measure how work is done, in general completing tasks efficiently and working consistently is how to measure business success. Therefore, understanding all about workplace productivity is key to success.

Some of the productivity issues to consider are;

  • How to increase productivity in the workplace
  • What software solutions can help work more productively
  • How productivity can be stymied
  • Ways to increase team’s productivity
  • If too much process stands in the way of productivity

Workplace productivity is measured by how quickly and efficiently a team can produce goods and services over a certain period of time. It’s a key metric that economists use to measure productivity.

It shouldn’t be confused with employee productivity, which measures the amount of work that an individual can accomplish over an amount of time. Statistically, tracking the efficiency of a larger group is more accurate than measuring a single person. That doesn’t mean productivity in the workplace is regulated strictly to those who work in an office. It can be applied to those who work from home and remote workers.

Increasing productivity in the workplace improves chances of completing projects on time and within budget. The following are suggestions to consider in improving productivity when conducting a project.

1. Tracking Tasks: Creating a system of managing tasks enables concentration of work, while creating the boundaries needed in order not to go off schedule and take the whole project off track.

2. Automation: Emails can be automated, to notify when a deadline is approaching, adjust accordingly, and get the work done without dragging the project off-track.

3. Take Breaks: It’s important to take short breaks, especially when working through long tasks, allows the brain and body a chance to rest.

4. Remove Distractions: Turn off personal notifications and other distractions can be physical, like the workspace. Remove clutter; ensure it is clean, in the middle of office traffic, isolated? There’s no hard and fast rule, some people need quiet, while others are more productive in busy environments.

5. Use Technology: While it can be a distraction, technology can also help to work better. There are a lot of great tools that are designed to help improve productivity.

Productivity software is used to organize work, collect data that is accessible quickly and facilitate collaboration with the team. It also allows monitoring and tracks what is in order to find areas that can be improved.

Project management tools have changed managing a project for the better, giving teams features to collaborate and work more productively, while managers are able to monitor and track their work. This means they can reallocate resources to meet their team’s capacity and always have them working efficiently.

Workplace productivity apps can largely be separated into two distinct types—offline and online productivity software. There are pros and cons for each, online productivity software means it can be used anywhere, at any time, which is critical for distributed teams. It also means the data received when monitoring and tracking is in real-time, which lends itself to greater insights and better decision-making.

Offline productivity software is not connected to the internet. That means it is not subject to the power of the connection. Since it only resides in the computer, it’s less accessible to unwanted third parties, which may provide a sense of security in protecting data. Desktop apps tend to be expensive, as they may require installation and a licensing fee for each terminal it is used on.

The benefits of knowing how productive the team is are immense. Armed with that knowledge, plan upcoming work and keep everyone allocated to their capacity without overloading them.

The processes resources are expected to use every day are the ones that will either help with productivity or hinder work. Make a list and find out the processes the team uses repeatedly.

Find out what tasks the team is working on and measure their performance against them. This can be achieved with resource management tools and time tracking. Tacking the lean six sigma approach here assist with minimizing waste or repetitive tasks.

The team can also be asked if they believe they are productive, the results would be interesting on how they measure their own productivity, via the amount of emails being sent or the results obtained within the project. The data from the process audit, the task assessments and feedback from the team can be measured by the amount of time each process takes.

Having carried out process reviews next is to evaluate whether those processes are as good as they could be. Look for these things.

  • Duplication of effort between teams
  • Unnecessary process steps
  • Data capture or input that then doesn’t go anywhere
  • Mapping out processes with a network diagram or any visual aid, will assist with bureaucratic time-wasting steps more easily.

It should then be relatively straightforward to identify and ditch process steps that don’t add any value or that duplicate effort. Review all the data captured in the process and make sure that something happens to it. If no one wants the data or uses it for anything, then stop recording it and save that time.

Too much process can stop a team from achieving their full potential. The more time they spend filling in change requests or logging work orders, the less time they spend actually doing their job.

Without the backing of a project management office, it can be hard to create a cultural change in office politics. If there is a concern about whether processes are helping or hindering a team’s productivity, know that there are ways to change the current paradigm and influence others to do the same.

For this to occur an audit is required, this can be conducting a simple review in order to know whether processes are, getting in the way of productivity. After all, processes shouldn’t be abandoned based on assumptions.

Don’t look for the number of processes or tools, or even a judgement call on the level of bureaucracy in the team. There can be dozens or hundreds of processes and if they all work smoothly, they can help productivity rather than hinder it.

Look for the following instead;

  • A drop in productivity
  • Signs and symptoms of an unhappy team.

Both these are indicators that bureaucracy is getting in the way of getting things done.

Before noticing a productivity problem, there has to be an understanding of the trends in productivity within the project or organization. Unfortunately, at times it is not obvious which process is hindering the team. The way to identify the road block is by looking for indicators of a gradual decline relative to past measures of productivity.

In order to know if productivity is declining, then there has to be an understanding on how to measure it. Gather all the project data that is available and look for the repeating tasks, as these are often the ones that require processes — such as these.

  • Managing requests for changes
  • Project handovers and internal reviews
  • Meetings
  • Processing payments

Task management systems that allow users to input the amount of actual time spent on a task will allow building up a huge repository of useful benchmark data. If identified that last year the change control process took a week for the change to be logged, assessed and either approved or rejected, it can be compared to current data. If it takes a lot longer today, then the empirical evidence is on hand, that shows process is slower and that could be part of the reason for the drop in productivity.

Don’t underestimate the useful information obtained from the team. Talk to them. They will be able to provide a gut feel for whether they are hampered or guided by the processes and (more importantly) which ones are difficult to work with.

Pinpoint the processes that are causing the most issue. Analyze what about them is creating problems, which could be one or more of the following.

  • They are too time consuming
  • The approval loop goes to the wrong people
  • They require too much information
  • Nothing is done with the information that is provided.

It can take time to recover from the drop in morale that is the by-product of an unproductive work environment, and bringing to mind all that is frustrating the team, it does need to be done sensitively. Be mindful in this process, and be prepared to address immediate concerns. Deal with any quick wins first, such as explaining where the data goes and why the process works that way. Then deal with the practical issues raised by attempting to resolve the process issues they have flagged.

These are quick ways to assess whether the team is less productive as a result of process. Carry out large scale process mapping and do a deep dive into productivity, but it’s easier to start with identifying some quick wins before moving to that sort of time-consuming initiative.

A drop in productivity could be the cause of a morale problem, or a symptom of poor morale in the team. These two issues are closely linked, so it’s worth seeing what can be done to address low morale at the same time.

Ultimately, information sharing and involving the team in the assessment can go a long way to improving morale.

Once productivity data has been analyzed and reviewed with the team morale situation. The lesson learnt is that the issues are definitely related to ineffective processes. Here are four steps to weed out what’s not working.

1. Take a leaf out of the Lean and Six Sigma manuals by stripping everything out of the process that doesn’t add value.

2. Try to avoid falling into the trap of removing too many processes without validating them, however. Someone else in the organization might need the piece of data that has been decided isn’t necessary. Do some sense checking before stripping the process back totally?

3. Delegate the process-related admin tasks to team members to share the load and streamline operations. Remember, democracy is not always the best approach in delegation. Choose team member’s best suited to accomplish them efficiently. There’s no business benefit in having highly paid technical architect do low-value process paperwork if the team administrator could do it just as well.

4. Be the advocate for the team. Many processes will be organization-wide, and probably can’t remove them without some serious negotiation. Bring key leaders together and be armed with the data uncovered in the audit to demonstrate the loss in productivity and its impact on the bottom line. Be sure to demonstrate clear solution-oriented approach that would work just as well, yet is less process-heavy and more productive.

It will take a bit of trial and error to whittle away the old, outmoded processes and streamline new ones. Use a continuous feedback approach with the team to maintain the right balance

In fact, getting team buy-in on all processes helps improve team morale because it boosts engagement when they know they are instrumental to contributing to continuous process improvement. Collaboration will really make a difference; overall immediate productivity improvements should be evident, and tweak processes until they are just right for the whole team.

Use online collaboration project tools to keep project and process work streamlined alongside each other. Keep all internal and project documents stored alongside project plans, and keep the team looped into project communications via a collaboration platform. Let us know your thoughts and how you manage project team productivity issues, we would like to hear from you, all the best on your project management journey.

Establishing good working stakeholder relationship

Stakeholder relationship

Don’t underestimate the requirement to have a good working relationship with the project stakeholder. As stakeholders have the ability to make or break projects. This makes them a risk to the likelihood of the project being completed. For this reason, the stakeholders of any project should be pinpointed, understood and managed, to increase the likelihood of project success. In this article we will look at who stakeholders are, what their interests might be, understanding them and managing them effectively, to give a project the greatest chance of succeeding.

Stakeholders can be identified as any person or group that has an interest, stake in the project or programme. Within the organization they might include the board, senior managers, different teams, internal customers and staff, among others. Externally to the organization they could include customers, suppliers, the media, local or national government, lobby groups, the community and different agencies. Remember the stakeholder is not necessarily the person funding the project. Brainstorming is one useful method to understand who the stakeholders are for any given project.

Stakeholders may have interests in projects for a variety of different reasons, depending on who they are, and their relationship to the project. In a number of cases, interests may be financially motivated. For example, the board may have an interest in an IT automation project succeeding, because it may reduce costs for the organization. Alternatively, a customer will have an interest in the project not overrunning on budget. Operational interests may also have a role to play, especially with regard to time. Media and community groups may be interested to some degree if a project has the potential to impact on the public or local environment. Other stakeholder interests might include employees who may resist change, especially if they have not been consulted in any way. Resistance to change can be one of the most detrimental factors impacting on the likely ability for the project to succeed.

Best practice stakeholder management requires understanding the interest that stakeholders have in a project, and the power they may have. Stakeholders can be ranked as either having high or low interest, or high or low power. This categorization of the different stakeholders helps guide how to work with them to engage effectively on the project. Some stakeholders may have a high level of interest but a low level of power, and these should be managed differently from those with high power and high interest, for example. High power and low interest groups need to have an eye kept on them, as they can significantly influence a project’s success if interest is sparked in them.

The most important stakeholders from a stakeholder management perspective are those that have high interest and high power. These groups may be considered key stakeholders, and they need to be carefully managed to drive the success of the project. They have the ability to help the project to succeed, but they can also bring it down if they are not engaged. Key stakeholders will vary depending on the type of project, but in a business, they will typically include the business owner that is eager for project success, and possibly the board too. In public projects the government or local council may very well be a key stakeholder.

While some stakeholders may have high interest and low power, and might therefore not be considered a threat, they still need to be consulted and their interests managed. This is because stakeholder groups can combine with one another to become more powerful – such as community groups working with the media, to influence government, for example.

Good stakeholder management is a function of leadership. Stakeholders need to understand what is going on and why, and they need to see projects moving forward with purpose and adding value. One of the main tools that a programme or project manager can use to work with stakeholders effectively is communicating well with them. This means building relationships and discussing their needs with them, any communication should be two-way, e.g. not just talking, but listening too. It is only through consulting with stakeholders that it is possible to develop solutions that will be palatable to the widest number of stakeholders. Communication needs to be regular, to keep stakeholders up to date on aspects of the project that are of particular interest to them. A common stakeholder complaint is not being kept up to date, and this is easily rectified with good communication.

Another tool is other members of the project, who need to show consistency in the way that they work with stakeholders, to build trust. Employees working on the project are all key representatives of it, in the eyes of the stakeholders. The bottom line is that building and maintaining relationships is critical to effective stakeholder management. Keeping in touch with stakeholders throughout the project, monitoring their power and interest and ensuring that most are kept satisfied as far as possible will give the project the highest chances of achieving its goals and delivering value.

The reality of project management is that some stakeholders will have the capability to significantly influence whether a project can succeed or not. This means that a key component of a project or programme manager’s job is to understand stakeholder needs, and work with them effectively, building relationships and managing issues, to ensure that they stay on side. Understanding a stakeholder’s level of interest and power with regard to the project is helpful in shaping the way in which the project manager manages the situation with the stakeholder. Both communication and building trust are essential tools in effective stakeholder management.

Please let us know your thoughts on Stakeholder management and the methods you use to establish good working relationships.

How Expert Project Managers Get Powerful Results with Automation

The launch of Trip Experiences was a success. Airbnb debuted a unique way to see new places by offering access to local activities and local guides in 12 cities. But CEO Brian Chesky saw how good it was and wanted to offer it to 50 cities worldwide. And that meant quadrupling the experiences and producing thousands of assets —photos, video trailers, and posters. It would entail better coordination by the three production teams already at work and the small team of Trip Experiences coordinators.

Creative Production Manager Hoon Kim decided the team could no longer scale this project using the massive spreadsheet they used for the first 12 cities.

“It was constantly crashing,” Kim said. “People ended up creating duplicates of the doc to deal with their own small world of data, which quickly became outdated since they weren’t connected to the original doc. There were massive amounts of confusion. We knew it wasn’t the solution.”

What they were looking for was a way to automate their efforts so they could scale production and repeat the successes in their first 12 cities.

Why Automation Matters to Projects

At its core, automation is about solving a problem by reliably offloading manual work done by a human to a machine. The goal is to reduce time-consuming repetitive, routine work,, and to maximize the repeatability and predictability of results.

But intelligent automation systems can do more than just automate processes or workflows, they can learn, adapt, and even make decisions based on data, and improve the efficiency of companies in the process.

And a project manager’s daily work often consists of mundane administrative work where every detail matters — a perfect arena for automation.

How Expert Project Managers Get Powerful Results with Automation

1. Automation helps scale efforts

Smart project managers use the power of automation to grow their teams, their projects, their output… without having to double their headcount.

In the example of Airbnb, Hoon Kim invested time and effort into researching project management software. They needed a work tool that would allow his team to see the work being done across the globe.

In Wrike, their team built and deployed custom workflows for every Trip Experience, allowing them to track the production of assets. But even better, the unprecedented visibility into production across the globe gave them a way to improve the quality of their work.

“With everything contained in Wrike,” Kim said, “We were able to leverage Wrike’s functionality to increase the quality of our assets across the board, make sure they were consistent, and also see where we were being efficient.”

2. Automation offloads busywork

Smart project managers allow their automated tools to do the menial work of assigning job tickets or sending status updates, so that they can focus on more valuable tasks. Such is the case with the San Francisco Chronicle.

The San Francisco Chronicle is one of the 10 largest daily newspapers in the United States. Like any big organization, their marketing department’s creative design team grew and began to struggle with a request system that wasn’t built for efficiently assigning work to multiple designers.

Graphic Designer Paul De Leon shared: “We had to investigate and find if there were new projects or not. There were no daily reminders or notifications for us at that time, which made it hard.”

Instead, they had a coordinator who manually entered and de-duped requests coming in via email and their Google Forms into a single spreadsheet, integrating the various requests into one place. Not the best use of the coordinator’s time.

When asked to find a better solution, De Leon found a project management tool with built-in automation that could manage inbound requests by sending it to all designers. It now also automatically notifies requesters of any change in status of their design requests.

Added bonus: approximately 40% of the team’s work is managed by duplicating templates. Why rebuild the wheel?

3. Automation seamlessly connects various systems together

The average enterprise now uses over 900 cloud applications to manage its processes, and 59% of workers say the number of tools they use to work has increased in the past year, according to Symantec.

And while this explosion of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) tools has made organizations more efficient when compared to a decade ago, the sheer number of options may now be leading to a decline in productivity.

Workflow fragmentation leads to workers spending more time searching for, and aggregating, information than actually working, says Wrike CEO Andrew Filev.

New technologies are created to help employees work smarter, but since they don’t exist in a vacuum, these tools are only successful when they integrate with one another and free your work data from silos. If employees spend their time searching for information, or copying information to a different tool, or even toggling between apps, all the gains are lost.

“I predict that automation will play a crucial role in helping IT implement and integrate multiple SaaS tools in the months and years to come,” Filev says. “When information and the right data remains accessible to everyone, from anywhere, your workforce can truly work smarter and not harder. But when data is siloed, and when our applications don’t work together, technology can’t do its job.”

For example, at the San Francisco Chronicle, Paul De Leon and his team of designers organize their creative assets (Photoshop and InDesign files) in Dropbox. Then they use Wrike to manage the workflows, attaching those assets to the relevant tasks and projects thanks to a native integration within Wrike.

There are many more tools that Wrike integrates with, from Gmail to Salesforce to Jira to Slack. The point is that your automation tool must work well with your existing technology stack to maximize its value.

4. Automation streamlines the feedback & review processes

An area where project management typically runs afoul of bottlenecks and delays is the review process. Communications get misplaced, stakeholders don’t realize the project is waiting on their approval, and various versions of deliverables are attached to multiple email threads.

Smart project managers use automation to optimize this process so that all approvers are notified they need to review something. And when the feedback is given, the original assignees receive it all in one place, organized chronologically.

De Leon recounts how they used to do it at the San Francisco Chronicle: “A copy editor would print out the PDF, take a red marker, write up his comments, scan it in, and then email it back to me.”

Nowadays, his team captures the comments directly within the PDF that is in Wrike. And his designers are alerted automatically that an asset has been reviewed. Feedback and approvals are clear and time-stamped. And there’s much less waste all around.

What Can Automation Do For You?

In the end, smart project managers use automation to make their work easier, specifically for scaling and replicating their efforts; for accomplishing the menial, manual work; for integrating all their tools; and for improving the review and approval process.

We leave you with two questions: How are you using the wealth of automation available to you? And if you’re not using automation, why are you purposely choosing to make work more difficult? Hit the comments and share your opinions.