Articles tagged with: Basic Management

6 Strategies to Avoid Estimation Errors on Your Next Project

Written by Stasia Rice Posted in Blog, All Posts

Why Do My Projects Take Longer Than I Think They should?

There are those of us that are really good at estimating how long a particular project will take, or how much effort can be reasonably expended in a period of time. And then there’s the rest of us.

Whether it is through sheer hope or lack of experience, we often underestimate the amount of time and energy it ALWAYS takes to complete a project and overestimate the number of things we can add to our plates.

While this can be painful at best if the project only affects you, when it affects your team, or the organization as a whole, estimation of time and effort really become critical to the success of the project, team morale and completion of strategic objectives.

Here are six strategies to consider for those of you that may share frustrations in estimating:

  1. How clearly defined is the scope of the project? Do you know EXACTLY WHAT needs to be accomplished, and EXACTLY HOW it will be accomplished? If not, allow time for investigation, planning and re-planning- especially if this is uncharted territory.
  2. Ask your experts. Typically – those actually doing the work are better suited to advise you on the time and effort you’ll need to complete the task – or even just define the scope of the task. Be advised and then, as the leader – be sure to take into consideration if this person has been a good judge in the past, what other tasks may also be coming up, give room for other variables and then adjust the schedule and your expectations accordingly.
  3. Be mindful that many people on your team may want to naturally try to accommodate your wishes. Be sure to ask probing questions about their portion of the project, what is required and what other expectations are on them. This will save you down the road when they are floundering because they have agreed to do too much. Also be sure to check in with them frequently to encourage open communication so that you can adjust the schedule and expectations as necessary.
  4. Be mindful of your own desire to accommodate an unrealistic schedule. It’s no secret that leaders are under pressure to perform and to get the project done quickly and under budget. As you collect scheduling information from your team – ideally your experts – be sure to examine your motives if you think that the project could or should be done faster or cheaper. Holding strong to a realistic goal allows you to under-promise and (potentially) over-deliver – a much better position than over-promising and under-delivering!
  5. Expect that nothing will go as planned. Help your team to realize that when they are estimating, they should plan for technical glitches, changes in scope or priority. These are all natural occurrences in a project of any sized organization. Change is a constant – but if you’re expecting it, you can help your team to adjust that much more quickly.
  6. When in doubt – give the schedule a little cushion. Your percentage of increase will vary depending on your experience and that of your team, but as long as the goals of the project can withstand it, add a little more time on top just in case. You’ll be surprised how often you need it!

Once you are relatively certain of a good estimation, a project leader needs to be a champion, cheerleader and barrier remover once the work is underway. Delivering a project on time and on target is a very gratifying feeling – and working toward that is important for your team and the organization as a whole. However, if the path and the itinerary are not clear from the get go- or the expected arrival date is unreasonable or just plain wrong– no one will enjoy the trip! Frustrations will mount both on your part and that of your team and targets will be missed. Developing your skill in estimating a project scope and schedule to enable your team’s success will result in far more satisfaction on everyone’s part! 

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Making a space for thinking…

Written by Barbara Higgins Posted in Blog, All Posts

A manager who once told me that his goal for me was to find time for 20% open thinking time in my work day. At the time, I thought this was a silly concept considering I had so much to do and not enough time to do it. I was so busy with tasks that needed to get done. Coming from a strong work ethic background, it was actually hard for me to leave an open space in my schedule. I believed that being super busy was being the super employee. Clearly, this gift from my manager would take time and practice to understand and recognize the value.

A recent psychological study by UVA and Harvard found that people would rather be doing something – possibly even hurting themselves – than doing nothing or sitting alone with their thoughts. When faced with 6 to 15 minutes of time to think, many participants chose a mild electric shock rather than open time to think. “What is striking,” the investigators write, “is that simply being alone with their own thoughts for 15 minutes was apparently so aversive that it drove many participants to self-administer an electric shock…” – Wow! I guess this time to think is a common challenge!

Today’s technology devices allow us to fill every minute to be sure to get the most “productivity” out of our day. Instant, endless messages are sent at every moment of every day. The impact of this constant barrage of activity leaves us unable to quiet down often leading to exhaustion and insomnia. It becomes so uncomfortable to just be still.

I decided that taking time to think was a critical part of my wellness. I started with small steps. On the suggestion of a friend, I tried to pause to take a deep breath before opening the car door…easy right? Definitely No. I was miles down the road before I remembered my resolve… even after many attempts. Clearly this would be a long journey to change for me.

After much time and effort, I am pleased to say that I really enjoy open time to think. I had to try lots of different approaches to find a few that work for me…and I had to turn off the cell phone. Considering the research referenced, it’s no surprise that the focus on wellness continues to grow.

Personally, I am amazed at how the time to think can energize creativity. Creativity doesn’t just take the form of some amazing idea. For me, creativity fills the space with options to do things differently. Many creative ideas have been tossed aside but some have made a real difference in finding a better way to accomplish a task, partner with a co-worker, or solve a problem.

So what have I learned about the value of taking time to think? I’m happier and more creative. I have more patience for great conversations and future possibilities. I don’t really know when I lost my skills for enjoying thinking time, but I’m even more appreciative now that I have it back. My wish for you is some wonderful and enjoyable time to think…with no electric shocks. 

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Less is More

Posted in Blog, All Posts

Less is More

Goal setting can be an exciting time! You are energized and ready to conquer! Your goals are set and you will continually strategize, plan and monitor them.... as you should.  You are also open and willing to do whatever it takes... and there is often “one more thing” that has the potential to get the result/s you are seeking.  And you’ll often do it without a second thought.

But let’s be honest... all those “one more things” can often be detrimental to the very goal you are after.  Soon you will be doing so many “one more things” that you could lose sight of your original goal, strategy, or plan.  I would like for you to consider a new proposal for your goal setting..... DO LESS!  Consider the five strategies listed below to DO LESS so that you can actually achieve more:

  1. Work less
  2. Take on fewer clients and projects
  3. Talk less
  4. Have fewer meetings
  5. Volunteer less

 

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Leading the Way to Effective Time Management

Posted in Webinars, All Posts

In a race between you and the clock – who wins? Would you rather manage a difficult employee than try to manage your time? And who has enough time for the extras – hobbies, volunteer work, and family!? When did family become an extra?

Join us for this informative webinar where we will offer solutions for balancing time for work, home, and self, help you introduce effective time management techniques for you and your staff, and discuss what to do when the unexpected comes along and rocks your boat.

Leaders Leveraging the Virtual World

Posted in Webinars, All Posts

As organizations downsize their staff, leaders often find themselves without admin support.

The result?

Leaders and their staff are shouldering more of the burden which detracts from the bigger picture and more specialized projects. In today’s economy the competition is fierce and the last thing you want is to fall behind because you are still trying to get your PowerPoint presentation to save correctly.

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who love what they do and always look forward to face new challenges.

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