We all dream about working on a project that runs smoothly and ends on time. However with changing circumstances this is rarely the case. What if I told you though, that a lot of delays in the project are not due to the external issues? Instead they come from within and it is actually you delaying projects?
Let’s see how implementing a few key changes can help you save valuable time in the work week!
When we talk about the inner company issues affecting the project timeline, there are 5 key disturbances to mention – unclear process, hard to measure progress, lost information, overload of meetings and lack of employee engagement. All of these issues play a major role on the project timeline and in many cases decide that a project is going to be late even if everything else is going according to plan.
Having that in mind, dealing with these issues delaying projects should be your first priority when trying to ensure everything runs smoothly. There is no way to control what is happening outside your company walls, but you can truly do something about what happens within.
Here are the 5 aspects to take note of today!
1 – Unclear Process
There is nothing that pushes the delivery date further away than a vague process. If your team does not know what they are supposed to be doing, a lot of valuable time is wasted trying to find out. Instead of pushing forward and working on what will benefit the project, team members have to go to each other, consult their managers and spend time on delegating tasks. While some of this can be expected, having to do it every single day is simply counterproductive.
Most businesses run in specific processes and it is a shame if your team is not aware of it. It makes your life as a manager harder and delays projects in two ways – your team spends valuable time looking for answers and you spend valuable time providing them.
Would you like to break this circle? Here is how!
Get out of your own way by creating a clear structure for the team to follow. Most likely there are certain processes that your teams perform time and time again, what you have to do is identify them. Then you will be able to create a standard way of operation and make it available for everyone to see. No matter if it is a new or experienced team member, they will be able to access the information on how the process runs and go forth without any additional management.
You can document the process in various ways and create templates for your teams to use when they start a new effort. For example, if you are using a Kanban board, create various templates, outlining all the process steps for each case. Your teams will be able to choose the appropriate template and will immediately see the standard process they have to follow. Thus, getting right to work and not delaying projects any further.
2 – Progress is Hard to Measure
Another big issue delaying projects is the fact that actual progress made by the team is hard to measure. Without knowing how much has been done and what is yet left to do, it is hard to tell if the project is running smoothly or actually is already late. And when you are guessing it is just too easy to assume there are no issues. In which case, before you know it, the deadline is a week away with no way of reaching it.
Measuring progress varies from project to project. In some this is very easy to do as all tasks are similar and known, while other carry many variables and make it more difficult to predict. Either way, not tracking how much has been done is a big mistake that causes you looking for additional time at the end of the project.
Hard to measure progress – track tasks is a visual project board
To measure your progress effectively you must first really understand the company process. As I mentioned before this will differ from project to project, but even with the most complicated situations, you should strive to understand and then track what is going on. Keeping tabs on the overall number of tasks, the number of completed tasks per week and the new tasks being added will help you better understand the stage of the project and how much progress the team is making.
To make this task easier, many managers use lists, charts and boards to get a visual representation of everything that is going on. One of the more popular ways to visualize the process and keep track of the progress is once again a Kanban board. As it allows to quickly see the full scope of the project and if you are using Work In Progress limits to also identify bottlenecks where the team needs help.
In a Kanban board like Teamhood you also get live reports, stating, the overall number of new, in-progress, and completed tasks. This allows you to quickly evaluate the situation and see if the course of action needs to be adjusted to meet deadlines. See the Kanban examples and create a board for your project.
3 – Fishing for Information
Who doesn’t love digginig for information they need right here and now? Not you? Well, me neither. But in too many projects, this is business as usual. Project information is divided into several places, people or worse of all it is all in your inbox buried under endless threads of e-mails. Having to fish for information requires time and effort that can be better spent elsewhere and in turn ends up delaying projects.
With any larger project there is a massive amount of information that team members have to share. Too often, however, this is done through various systems without any one place to find everything you need. Then one day a single team member goes on vacation or leaves the company and the rest of the team is left trying to find some information they need to go forward.
Instead of scattering project information across various places, think about a centralized system to keep everything accessible. Make sure your goals, documents, tasks and their files can all be found in one place when any team members need them. This will save you a lot of time and frustration, making sure lost e-mail can no more be faulted for delaying projects.
There are various document sharing systems on the market today, making it possible to find something for any requirements. You can choose something simple like Dropbox to share files with your colleagues or go for a project management tool like Teamhood to hold all of your project data and communications. If you go for the later, you will be able to not only track the project, but have all the information associated with it in one place. Task description, subtasks, files, comments and a changelog will make sure you know what exactly has been done and when.
4 – Too Many Status Report Meetings
Meetings are usually a hit or miss with your employees, but the general consensus states – the less meetings the better. This is especially true when it comes to status report meetings and teams that spend half of their day reporting on what has been done instead of actually working.
No doubt, status report meetings are important as they help get the idea of what is going on and what management can expect to be delivered in the near future. However, some companies take them to a such extreme, they end up actually delaying projects. We often encounter this complaint in larger companies, with big managerial overhead where the need to know overpowers the need to execute.
Want to forgo the old standard and find something more effective? Try taking advantage of technology and minimize the need to report everything in person. Today project management tools are filled with reports and metrics that give you a live insight into what is going on. Thus, instead of asking your people to create presentations and then attend live meetings, you can open the project management solution and see what is going on.
Moreover, these tools also give you a quick overview on which tasks are late which shifts the conversation from what has been done to what we should do to move forward. This allows companies to minimize face to face status report meetings and instead focus them on finding solutions on issues that are delaying projects.
Use actionable Agile metrics reports to know exactly how your team is doing and which items should be completed next.
5 – Lack of Employee Engagement
Lastly, it all comes down to your employees, at the end of the day it is them executing or delaying projects. Which means if they are not engaged into what is going on they might be costing you time.
This usually happens when the team feels they have no say over what is going on and are simply executing tasks that management gives them. Working in this way may be fine at first, but over time it wears down on the team, starts creating doubt and resistance to execute certain tasks. Which is no good in any environment and especially in a timeboxed project.
Lack of employee engagement – clear processes and goals will allow for more motivated team.
So how do you get the team onboard? Well, first you will have to be straightforward and honest with them. It is important for each team member to understand what the company is trying to achieve and how their actions help achieve that. In fact, some Agile practitioners even recommend switching the daily standup conversation from ‘This is what I did’ to ‘Since we are trying to do this, I did that to help us get there’.
Making your end goals part of the process and visualizing the path to reach them will make your team proud of what they are doing and more motivated to excel at what they do.
Sometimes we become so focused on dealing with external issues affecting the project timeline, that we forget a lot of reasons delaying projects come from within our own team. Creating clear processes, information channels and focusing on the right meetings we can save time in a work week and deliver projects in a more timely manner. All it takes is a little self-reflection.