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4 ways processes can prevent efficiency

Rusted wheel

Source: dhester

When working in teams, especially as the team is bigger, processes are what guides everyone, and helps everyone work together towards the same goal.

But have you ever felt as if the processes in place seem to add complexity rather than help? Here are some ways this might happen:

Who does what

Processes is not only what should be done, but by who, and sometimes, that’s just no clear enough, which creates expectations that are not met, therefore confusion, frustration, and conflicts rises from this.

In a struggle to get this clear, sometimes so much detailed/granular instructions will be given at the same time that people will get lost or confused in it.

Billable VS Non-billable hours

Tracking productivity by calculating & monitoring how any hours each spend on projects VS hours spent on internal tasks is important to make sure people are working on what brings in the money.

Non-billable hours include anything that’s not going to get a bill out of the door, meaning amongst other things: working on tools, template, processes, or any other ‘internal’ work. This is as still very important work since it affects all the work that’s going to be considered ‘billable’.

If no importance is given to those non-billable hours, then everyone will avoid to contribute on any of the above elements, and nothing will get fixed or improved.

Another negative effect this can have is how people enter their time; since non-billable hours have no value, people who need to work on internal stuff will be reluctant to do so, or even worse, they will enter their time in projects so that they seem to work on billable tasks. This adds a whole level of lying and deceiving that you want to avoid.

Tools

Sometimes it will be part of processes to use specific tools, whether it’s because of reporting, or more typically, because ‘people are used to it’. These tools are not always the best, and when forced to use them, will only slow people down, reduce motivation, and even completely prevent some to do their job.

Inappropriate for certain projects

Big chain of processes can be great and even absolutely necessary for big projects, or projects with typical deliverables. However, when you are tackling smaller projects, or retainers, well then processes should be adapted. You don’t want to spend your whole budget on internal processes and have nothing left to do the work!

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5 tips when resources disappear

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Source: KellyP42

Resources come and go, whether it’s just for a day when you need to get work done for tomorrow, or a week because people are switched to another project, or permanently because they leave the company, you will have to find a Plan B, even C or D!

Here are some general tips that can help various situations when resources wave goodbye!

1. Manage client expectations appropriately

If resources are switched, or even temporarily absent, chances are, your project will slow down. This means that you may not be able to meet a set deadline. Your client must know this right away, and you may not know when the deadline can be met.

In these cases, do not commit to a specific time and give yourself more time than you think you will need. Instead of “next Monday”, commit to “mid next-week” where you will have some flexibility.

Also, except if it’s a very small “set-back”, you may want to avoid spilling out the reality like “your resource got fired” or “somebody’s sick and we don’t know when he’ll be back”; that will only worry the client and bring absolutely nothing constructive so simply state that you need more time.

2. Switch resources around pro-activaly

If you need someone right away and ask who’s available, chances are everybody will be busy, and those available may not be able to take the task you need done. So you cannot surrender right away, there is often a solution when you move things around taking several projects into consideration. This means different things depending of the situation:

  • Check if other projects have more flexibility, and can lend a resource, even if that project as to postpone a delivery; or
  • Trade resources between projects so one can free another that could do your specific task;

You may have to use diplomacy, but avoid simply asking around “Do you have time?”, start with that, but if it doesn’t work, start trading!

3. Prepare a backup plan in advance

One thing you can do to plan ahead is use the “Hit by a bus syndrome“, I invite you to read my article on the subject.

4. Have your documentation simple & updated

If you are going to switch to a new resource at the last-minute, you want that resource to be up and running very fast. This means that the information you will give him must get to the point and must be reliable. Every minute may make a difference.

Avoid piling up 30 pages to read, give him only what he needs to know, go right to the point.

5. Stay positive

If you start to whine or panic, you are not going to get anything accomplish, nor are you going to be diplomatic when trying to deal resources, so stay positive and go forward.


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Back off! 3 things to consider when pressuring team members

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Source: hotblack

In project management, we often (maybe too often) have to work with tight schedules, surprises, scope creep, etc. What happens, especially when less experienced, is that we become stressed, and will transfer this stress to the team members through pressure.

Is that good? Sometimes, it can be, in others, it’s not. There are several things to consider:

1. Dosing is important

Too much pressure is never good, but the right amount can give your team members the boost they need to get the job done. Make sure everyone understands what needs to be delivered and how important it is, but use that opportunity to motivate them that can do it, rather than what’s going to happen if they fail. If you stress them too much, their productivity will diminish, and some may even not be able to work at all.

2. Everyone is different

Some work great under pressure, some not. Get to know your team members and how they react, and dose pressure accordingly:

  • Some love pressure: Those who are great under pressure will be at their greatest with just the right amount of stress. This means that you can emphasize on the delivery being very close, and how important it is to be on time, but you still need to avoid overdoing it.
  • Some hate pressure: Others just don’t react well to pressure. This means that you want to avoid completely adding in kind of pressure whatsoever. However, it is still important to let them know if any deliverables are due, or if anything if late so you want to use a different approach depending of the situation: talking to the whole team at once will reduce adding the pressure on only one or two person and that will make it easier to accept, and also, the tone of voice and your body language will have a great influence on how the members will react, this is important when communicating all the time with everyone, but it is also very important to be careful when you know the pressure will make your team member go berserk!

3. Pressuring & disturbing is different

It’s easy to get caught up in asking colleagues for statuses every half hour because a deliverable is due any second or is even late, and you want them to feel pressure to get the work done ASAP. This only makes matters worse:

  • You slow down work: By asking for statuses, you disturb team members, and prevent them from working on what you want. Even if they are disturbed for 1 minute, consider that they lost 15-30 minutes of momentum & concentration depending of what they are doing. Furthermore, the time they are spending to give you a status is also time they could be spending on finishing the work.
  • You irritate: If your team members are working on a deliverable that is due any second, you can expect that they are also stressed, which means they have less patience. Asking them for statuses will irritate them more easily in these cases, and could create conflicts. Also, he will focus less on his work, and more on how you are irritating him which will reduce his productivity. One thing you always want to avoid is to stand behind them while they are rushing the work, nobody likes that, go sit down, and wait for them to come see you.

In conclusion

Pressure can add focus and speed, but can also reduce it. Be careful of how you add it, and who you are working with, everything has to be considered carefully.

If you have anything to add, don’t hesitate to share!


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5 types of phonies to clear away from your projects

Keep out

Source: jppi

When you are looking for someone to add to your team or you have somebody “forced” into it, you want to make sure that you can depend on that person. Although some will hide very well the fact that they are not productive or simply do not have the required competence, there are some signs you can use to spot those people.

Keep in mind that these signs assumes it’s with someone you do not know. If it happens with someone you know and trust, it may very well not apply. Also, it’s important to note that theses different examples are taken from real experience, nothing is fake!

1. The one that doesn’t get anything done

That one may seem obvious at first, but what’s tricky here is that they will camouflage the fact that they did not do the job. Typical excuses will be: I wasn’t properly briefed, I needed something from someone else, I didn’t have time, etc.

The trick here is to test them with small tasks here and there, tasks that you know without a doubt that they have all necessary assets & time to do, and see if they do it without having to tell them 3-4 times.

2. The one that estimates unknown work

This one could be spotted even before you add someone to your team. The one that estimates the work, and has no idea what the work is nor does he seem to show any interest in knowing what it is either . You think it can’t happen? Oh yes it does! Luckily, this is easy to spot, and should be a deal breaker right away. Heck, I’ve even come across a whole agency who sent out estimates of projects that were still unknown!

Here is an example taken from a real-life experience: The PM got into contact with a Front-end developer freelancer for his project so he could ask for an initial estimate. He sent a JPG of the new layout for an existing web page by mail explaining that a page already exists and should be changed to the new design. The freelancer replies that he hasn’t looked at the design but it should take 3h… how can he possibly know? Well guess what, it did not turn out too well the freelancer since he didn’t know what he was doing and someone else had to pick up the work.

3. “Don’t worry answer”

This one is my favorite (although less favorite phony): the confident “Don’t worry about anything” team member. The first thing you want to do when you hear this is…worry 🙂

Don’t get me wrong, a colleague can tell you not to worry, and well….don’t worry! This particular case is for when the team member does not answer questions like “are you almost done” or “how much time do you need”, or anything similar to that. Since they don’t actually know what they are doing and cannot truly answer, they will tell you not to worry so you go away.

So if you ask questions and receive that answer, ask your questions again, make sure you get your answers. You may quickly notice that he cannot answer or the answer will not make sense.

4. CTRL-TABer

In case you do not know, CTRL-TAB (or CMD-TAB on MAC) is a shortcut to quickly switch between opened applications. Useful if you want to be productive or….if you want to switch back to Facebook when someone walks by.

If you have a feeling that your colleague’s windows changes every time you arrive at their desk, then use a little stealth to have a look at their screen before you start talking to them and they notice you. You may find out that they don’t actually work half of the time.

5. The cow-boy

I’ve had old colleagues calling them that, but it’s basically someone who can do the job very well, but he’s in it for his own personal gain, so he does what he wants, how he wants. What will typically happen with those team members is that you will receive something different from what you asked for because they thought it was ‘cooler’, or they will gold-plate your project just to try out a new framework, and you’ll be left with a dead budget.

They may be very competent, but they are very unreliable, so be careful with those. What’s really tricky is that since they are good and they are testing new technology or work differently, they create a dependency towards them since others may not be able to pick-up their work (play in their code for example). You have to make sure they are watched closely.

In conclusion

If you are lucky enough to spot them before they are added to your team, then simply select someone else. If you are stuck with this team member, than confronting them, or changing resource may be your best option.

Another trick, if you have the luxury of being able to do that, is to have these people do mini-tests before they join the team. For example, a developer could have to develop a simple login to have access to a secured page, and then you can have a look at the code. It’s a real eye-opener and can filter 90-95% of candidates before you add them to your project. Really!

One thing is for sure, don’t wait to act or to prevent, these people can have disastrous effects on your projects.

Have you ever been stuck with a phony? Share your story!