I was recently asked, “How do you manage projects in medium sized company with limited resources?”
I thought back to one of my previous positions where I had to fill many hats. I was the CIO on the executive board setting strategic direction for the company, I was the Director of Technology managing a very small IT shop, I was Project Manager for IT Infrastructure projects, application development projects, and a few non-IT related corporate projects (only because I was the only certified PMP in the organization). I also had to function as System Administrator and Help Desk Support on occasion.
Times were tough on all departments. Revenues shrank, budgets shrank, staff shrank (not that the people shrank, but the number of people shrank).
We had to regroup and devised some strategies to accomplish our goals for the IT department and for other corporate projects that were under my direction. There were five areas that had to be addressed quickly.
Get Prioritized. We had to look at each project and how it would benefit the organization. We spent one day reviewing each project to determine the relative value. Some projects needed to continue because it made financial sense. Some projects were to continue because of regulatory requirements. Many projects hit the kill zone or was put on a “spend no more until further notice” status.
One thing I cannot emphasize enough. The review was at the highest level. There were no surprises at the top. The ”top” was part of the review process.
Get Lean. Needless to say if a project was to pass the executive gauntlet, it didn’t necessarily receive a rubber stamp in terms of budget and resources. This was a time to eliminate any waste in the project. I also used Lean in operations to find and eliminate waste. In a future blog we’ll discuss Value Stream Mapping and how it can open the eyes of the blind to areas of waste in a process.
Get Agile. For the application development projects we embraced Scrum. I was the first Scrum Master (and Product Owner). For IT Infrastructure projects we introduced Kanban. This methodology worked really well in this organization since most of the project team was also the operation team. We were on a hiring freeze as well as mandated to reduce outsourced consultants. We did not have resources to pull staff off of their operations routine, but the IT staff did have chunks of time to work on IT infrastructure projects. We used Kanban along with a well groomed product backlog to determine where the IT staff used those extra chunks of time.
Get Disciplined. According to Critical Chain Project Management thinking, the three greatest time wasters are due to Parkinson’s Law, Student Syndrome, and Bad Multitasking. If you ask me how long it will take to complete a task, I will pad that time and then take every minute of that time to complete it. That’s Parkinson’s Law in action. Student Syndrome is a lot like college, I will blow the task off until the absolute last minute, then cram to get it done on time. Finally, I found Bad Multitasking to be a hard habit to break. I find myself with a list of tasks to work on (A, B, and C). During the day I might start on A, then switch to B when I get bored with A. Then someone comes in and asks where are we with C and I switch to working on that task. Every time I stop and switch, there is cost in time to “switch thinking”. This is especially true with application development.
I will save a more thorough discussion of Parkinson’s Law, Student Syndrome, and Bad Multitasking along with Critical Chain Project Management for future blogs.
Finally, as a Project Manager and a department manager, it was my responsibility to Monitor and Direct, not manage and control, not stifle productivity and efficiency. Knowing I was under the gun to deliver, I had to force myself to bite my tongue on many occasions and NOT micromanage. I kept up to date on status and offered suggestions and guidance. However, I allowed the team leaders to manage their part of the project.
This strategy worked. We produced results. We completed projects that were essential to the success of the business. The most important and by far the one key that made this a success and will put your organization on a successful project management foundation is Management Buy-in. They cannot be passively involved; they have to be directly involved.
Good luck with your project management endeavors.