Everyone has, at some point, told themselves “this is not a good time for _____”. Sometimes we fill in that blank like “this is not a good time to take on a new project, I have too much going on”. As an implementation manger here at WolfPAC, I hear this a lot, but is there ever really a good time to take on something new?
After years of helping our clients implement our software, I have learned that it’s not whether your resources have time in their schedules, it’s about planning and smart economizing of your team’s activities. Sound like a pipe dream? Let me share with you some tactics and tips that our clients have successfully used to get things done with limited resources.
Learn what dials you can turn
First, understand what dials you can set to tweak output. There are only three:
The timeline dial is when you need to be done. Since it is often driven by external factors (in the case of our implementation it is usually an upcoming exam or audit committee meeting), there isn’t usually much leeway. Your job here is to understand what external factor is putting pressure on your timeline, why it’s important, and what you need to have prepared. The timeline dial is then locked down for your project.
Resources are the people you have on your team. Look at their schedules; are there other critical deliverables competing for the same deadline? You may need to add more people to the team, or temporarily remove other activities from critical team members. It’s important to get a clear understanding of what bandwidth your team has so you can understand what your team can reasonably accomplish.
With dates and resources now set, you can turn the Scope dial up or down, depending on bandwidth. If bandwidth is low, you can dial down scope to ensure you hit your goal. If your team has a lot of time to dedicate to your project, you can dial scope up to get more done.
Resources and Scope can be revisited throughout the project cycle as things change, and tweaked accordingly. Dates cannot. A common objection to dialing down scope is the feeling that you still aren’t finished. However, the value gained in getting a limited scope completed and using those results to start gaining ROI from the project will always be better than trying to tackle it all in an undefined timeframe, and ultimately not finishing anything. The former tells a story of planning and results, the latter simply frustrates everyone involved (including the project team, executive sponsors, and regulators).
Don’t chase perfection
You can support your team by letting them know where the blurred lines are. I have seen many projects lose steam because participants believe the results have to be perfect, and until they understand what perfection is, their progress stalls. Help them understand this can be iterative, and doesn’t have to be perfect on the first pass. The main focus of your team should be reasonableness and momentum. Once that’s established, coach your project participants on how to pace themselves and raise the flag early if momentum stalls. Let them know there is no excuse good enough for incomplete work if they wait till the 11th hour to Inform their project manager.
Understanding what you can control, setting a plan in place to monitor those variables, and keeping the team’s momentum is key to ensuring results from busy resources. Once you have this in place, you’re well on your way to completing your project!