How to Manage a Project while Doing your Regular Job

If you are reading this post, then like many other managers and PMs, you may have been given an extra duty of “Project Manager” for a new project in your organization. Not that your management has relieved you of your normal job role and duties—they just think you are the best person to manage this project and think you can handle it.

If you are a “git-r-done” kind of person, this is going to be a common occurrence. In today’s fast-paced business world, it’s likely that you’ll have more than one thing to work on at any given time for your whole career. To address this situation, I thought I would share eight (8) tips on how to juggle multiple projects and work – while keeping your sanity:

  1. Learn to Prioritize! If you had a full time job or your “work plate” was full already, then it is obvious you will have to prioritize tasks and projects in order to survive. Prioritization means determining the order for dealing with tasks. But the key to successful prioritization is using the right factor to determine the relative importance of each task. Tatyana Sussex suggests 6 steps to this in “How to Prioritize Work When Everything is #1.” One of her main points is to differentiate between what is urgent vs. important.
  2. Plan and document each project or work target. The old saying “Plan your work and work your plan” has been attributed to many people, from Vince Lombardi to Margaret Thatcher. But I bet it comes from experienced managers who probably had the same type of workload as I’ve had! What this means to me is starting with a clear agreement on what “done” looks like. (By the way, this is a key part of Agile/Scrum projects) This defines the end game. It also requires having a common understanding of this end game with the project sponsor and key stakeholders. All of this must be in place before you establish a timeline of actionable steps and begin to work through them. I addressed the importance of project planning in a previous post.
  3. Find the right resources and assign the work! You don’t need to do every task and part of a project yourself. Recruit, steal, find and assign people and resources to get the tasks and work done. An earlier post by Dr. Karen McGraw on how to interview and select the right candidate addressing recruiting the right people. Another key skill is knowing how to work with people at all levels: peers, subordinates and bosses because the project’s ultimate success will depend on it. Finally, when you assign a task, do so with clear and specific requirements and targets, then get out of the way—DON’T micromanage.
  4. Learn to be Flexible. Change is a fact of life, and so is uncertainty. Even the best plan is not immune to the unexpected. In the middle of one of our projects nature dealt us a flood that put lives, property, and the project at risk. Be willing to scale up or down to suit real-time project needs. Making course corrections or changing priorities when events happen is the best strategy to keep all of your work and projects moving forward.
  5. Streamline the work and tasks. Eliminate unnecessary work and non-productive tasks! I am always amazed at how projects and work processes have wasted effort included in the requirements. In addition, during your project you may be asked to do more with less, as organizational needs and situations change. I provided some suggestions for doing this in a previous post.
  6. Communicate often and effectively. Learn to communicate effectively and spend less time checking up on work. Put processes and tools in place that can communicate status easily and quickly. Learn what communication is best for each project member and each part of the project. Email may not always be best, and online conference calls may be wasteful in time. (In a previous post I offered tips to help you manage your email.) Use a variety of communication techniques which streamline messaging and help you to manage communication more effectively.
  7. Know your own limits. Knowing your limits means managing expectations, understanding your own limitations, and being realistic about them. This is a key productivity concept for any program manager. When you get overloaded, you are not effective. Taking on too much will be detrimental to your overall productivity and to your well-being. Personally I get real grouchy when I am in overload mode. Molly Connor provides some tips for things you can say to help you manage within your personal limitations.
  8. Get something accomplished every day. I try to set targets for each day that allow me to feel good when a complete items each day. They don’t all have to be large or significant, but the key is to get the work products and project tasks completed. To achieve my targets, I schedule chunks of uninterrupted time whenever I can. Research shows that it takes your brain 15 minutes to re-focus after an interruption. Convey the concept to your resources and team members. Some people even create a “To Stop List” in order to get rid of distractions that can get in the way of achieving tasks.

I wish I had used some of these tips early in my career – I wouldn’t have burned so much mid-night oil! See which of these tips you can implement in your work style as you are assigned those “extra” projects.

If you have additional tips for juggling lots of work and projects, please share as a comment.

 

5 Tips to Managing Organizational Change More Effectively

I have been in many organizations throughout my career and one thing I know – change is constant! In fact this week I had to adjust to a new change myself. I was talking with Dr. Karen McGraw, noted Organizational change and Leadership coach, and she offered to write a post on the subject for all of us who have to manage projects and organizations through the change.  I am pleased to share:

Managing Organizational Change More Effectively

Guest Post by Dr. Karen L. McGraw, President and Principal Consultant, Silver Bear Group

It seems that organizational change is constant today, whether due to reorganization, innovation, or new systems and processes. As George Bernard Shaw said, “Progress is impossible without change.” And even though the new IT system you are about to implement will really help the workforce over time, it still will trigger some workforce resistance and angst. Being a good project manager means that you must think beyond the technology, product, or process you are implementing. It requires acknowledging that best results are achieved through organizational change management initiatives that empower and support people. Here are five tips for achieving better project outcomes.

1. Create a separate project to manage the change.  Most project managers understand the need for organizational change management, and some even build key change activities into their project plans. But in most cases, their first priority is to the on-time and on-budget implementation of the project. We have learned from history that the best practice is to set up a separate organizational change management project to support the primary project. Why? Because organizational change is much more than getting a new IT system configured and implemented, or creating new processes. Effective change requires a clear focus on how people work inside the organization, how work flows across the organization, and how the culture accepts new ideas.

The change project should begin with developing a change charter, documenting a vision statement, garnering leadership support and creating a change steering committee to involve individuals at all levels. The change project should be led by someone who is knowledgeable about organizational change management and who understands basic project management practices. By coordinating with the implementation project team, the change team’s roadmap, communication plan, messaging schedule, and other critical activities and actions are aligned with and designed to support implementation success.

2. Define a clear focus for the organizational change management activities.  As heretical as it may seem, the purpose of the organizational change project is not really to get the new IT system implemented—the technology project team will take care of that. Nor is it to find ways to “make” people use the system once it is implemented. Instead, the organizational change project should be focused on finding and implementing ways to empower and support the workforce as it makes the change.

In many cases, people will have to learn to work in new ways to use the new system effectively. Their jobs may change; they may be rewarded differently. It’s natural that this could cause resistance and reluctance. So, before you design training that is all about the features and functions of the new system, focus first on people. Find out how they work today and the processes they use. Discover how their work is currently rewarded. Identify the barriers they face that the new IT system will help them overcome. These factors determine the fundamental nature of the change, and once you understand it, you’ll be better prepared to craft meaningful messages and feedback mechanisms, design the right kind of training and coaching, and put rewards that matter in place. That’s a very different perspective.

3. Create strategic, usable Change Management and Communications Plans. Traditional change management was often little more than generic-sounding change management and communications plans that were not used very effectively. That’s unfortunate, because these two documents should be your strategic tools for success. What’s strategic about them? They should be developed to help the organization align the outcomes the project is to deliver directly with the organization’s business goals. Creating the change vision statement, benefits, and goals in a way that they can be easily communicated with and accepted by the workforce is critical. This also will require a good understanding of the current state to enable you to develop effective plans to close the gap between current and future vision. Consequently, well before you open a template, you should be conducting activities to gather the input the plans will require, such as

  • Change vision statement, with organizational benefits and goals
  • Change management strategy development
  • Stakeholder identification and assessment
  • Stakeholder baseline survey of current attitude and perception
  • Organizational change readiness assessment
  • Change risk and issues assessment
  • Change evaluation plan

Additionally, both of these documents should be living documents that you modify as the implementation requires. Did the project “slip?” Then the communications schedule should change.  Are the messages you are using not getting the point across, based on feedback form the workforce? Modify the message to address the resistance or questions you are getting. Don’t develop them to sit on a shelf!

4. Get your leadership on board and coach them to stay involved to lead the change.  Research indicates that change management and communications plans are invaluable in creating good messages and feedback loops, and helping employees function in the new environment, but that the most impact comes from strong change sponsorship. Enlisting the right executive sponsorship is critical, but it doesn’t stop there. In fact, having a “figurehead” sponsor is no real leadership at all.

Real change leadership is about more than being just a mouthpiece for the change and sending out an email every now and then. Change leadership demands a willingness to continually champion the importance of the vision the project will enable the organization to attain, in spite of the potential disruption it may temporarily cause. It means ensuring that leaders at all levels speak with a single voice regarding the change. It demonstrates support for the process changes required for success. It proactively resolves conflicts, holding people accountable for making the change. Finally, it recognizes and celebrates the organization and the individuals who helped the implementation succeed.

5. Use a defined methodology to plan an effective change management project and work the plan. Project managers use the PMBOK® and methodologies like Agile to help them define, plan, and manage projects to successful conclusions.  Many change management methodologies exist that practitioners can use to guide their organizational change management activities.  Most of these methodologies are variations of John Kotter’s 8-step model. We use the EASE Change Management methodology, a practical, 4-step approach that is based on Kotter’s model, but has simplified and combined some activities to make it easier for organizations to deploy and fund. Regardless of the change model or methodology you choose, use it to guide your success. Models provide you and your team with a common change management language. They define what you should be doing, when to do it, and are based on best practice. And they can boost your client’s confidence in your ability to implement change effectively.

Closing Thoughts. Organizational change doesn’t just happen. It must be carefully planned and implemented to support the workforce as it learns and adapts to new systems and practices. These tips are based on a decade of successful implementations of many different types of systems. My hope is that they guide you as you help your organization make your change vision a reality!

About the Author

Dr. Karen McGraw, “The Performance Doc,” is the president and principal consultant at Silver Bear Group (www.silverbeargroup.com), a business and performance consultancy in Austin, TX. She is an accomplished organizational consultant and knowledge engineer specializing in human performance improvement, leadership development, and change. For over 30 years, she has helped clients achieve desired outcomes through training, process, technology, and change projects. Clients trust her to design tailored solutions that address critical issues, engage stakeholders in project success, and deliver long-term results.

Karen’s educational background is in the fields of Psychology and Curriculum and Instruction. In addition, she is certified in the use of tools such as the Golden Personality Profiler, Insights, and Myers-Briggs. She is a co-author of ASTD’s Performance DNA methodology, the EASE Change Management Methodology, Breaking Tape: 7 Steps to Winning at Work and Life, and a human capital management scorecard system. As an HPI facilitator for ASTD, she has trained hundreds of people in the analysis of human performance. Karen has published 6 books and over 50 articles in topics ranging from knowledge engineering and human performance analysis, to change management, collaboration, leadership, and process improvement.

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