As a project manager it is not uncommon to have a team of resources that are not 100% dedicated to your project. This presents an interesting challenge, both for you as a project manager and for the team members themselves on time management. This article will go through some of the things to watch for and what you and your team can do to help eliminate potential conflicts.
Thrashing and Task Switching
A common time-suck of anyone who’s multi-tasking is the time needed to recalibrate once you switch from one task to another. This is an expense to a project that is easily and often unaccounted for that can have significant impacts to both your budget and schedule.
A way to mitigate the impact of constant task-switching is to get a better understanding of your team’s competing priorities in order to accommodate those priorities into your overall plan. Common competing priorities for project members can include unplanned support work and being shared across multiple projects. In both cases it’s prudent planning to account for an expected amount of schedule to be allocated to competing tasks that your team members are responsible for. A common response that I’ve gotten in the past is “I don’t know how much time I need to support Application X over the course of your project”. What I typically do in these situations is to have the team member give me a timesheet (or some representation of how they spent their time) and try to get a sense of a percentage of time that was spent on the task in question. Application support is something that can never be completely accurately predicted but historical and heuristic evidence can play a big part in giving a good ball-park estimate for how much schedule the resource will be required.
In addition to application support, another common scenario is where a team member is shared across multiple projects. These scenarios are a bit easier to predict, seeing as there should be a defined schedule and budget for each resource on the project that can be accounted for in your plan. As we all know, projects will deviate from their original baseline and it’s important in these situations to ensure that you’re effectively communicating with your PM peers on resource allocation and usage to ensure that your project expectations are being met and if not, what can be done to rectify the situation. Often times this can become a negotiation session with your fellow project managers to ‘loan’ out resources to rescue a failing project with the promise to return the favor.
Visibility into team member workloads is critical for project managers to have in order to properly oversee their teams and ensure that members are not over-allocated. Having a clear understanding of priorities for each team member is essential to proper planning.
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