Time management to make you more effective and efficient

To be effective we must have a primary focus on relationships with people and results. To be efficient we must complete our activities as quickly as possibly. To use our time wisely and get the most out of the time we have in each day we must be efficient at doing what needs to be done and effective in getting others to do what they need to do for the team to deliver the results.

To be effective and efficient there are certain core principles and practices that we need to follow every day.

When we manage time and people well, there is a greater probability that we will also manage cost, scope, quality and risk effectively.

Develop a culture based on core principles & methodology to support

There are many things that can influence time management in a project, for successful project management it is critical that time us used to deliver the greatest effect. So we will look at a few things that you may not initially think about as having an impact on time.

Develop a culture of results, accountability and responsibility

Through our actions we must develop a culture of results, accountability and responsibility not a culture of activity. Every task that a person carries out in the project must add value to delivering the output. Reward people on delivering results not on looking busy and being at work for long hours.

The project culture must be one where everyone in the project organisation identifies with the project goal. They must work side-by-side to deliver the results and not work against each other. Therefore they must all have a common well defined goal and an understanding of the necessary conditions and critical success factors that must be fulfilled in order to achieve the goal.
Using the above criteria we make it easy to say NO to work or activities that do not contribute to achieving the projects objectives.

Through effective planning we aim at creating a culture where people will work on what is important before it becomes urgent. This means that we actively structure projects and coach people to avoid spending time on unimportant activities some of which may seem to be urgent.

Managing scheduling & multitasking to improve performance

We schedule priorities, rather than prioritizing what’s on your schedule. This ensures that the schedule is constantly updated to enable the team to work on what will deliver the most value to the organisation.
As projects are about people delivering results, the schedule is used as a tool to be more effective in dealing with people first, then in terms of efficiency in dealing with time. This ensures that people can work on what is important before it becomes urgent.
We use the critical chain scheduling method and anyone working on the critical chain is not allowed to be disturbed, they may ask for help from anyone else in order to complete activities on the critical chain as fast as possible. The initiation of new activities is by default event driven rather than date driven. New activities on the critical chain are started as soon as pre-requisite activities are completed to ensure that there is no time wasted waiting to start the next activity.

Buffer management to improve time management

Schedule Buffers are used to place all safety at the end of a chain of activities so that time waist related to “Student Syndrome” and “Parkinson’s law” is eliminated.
Resource buffering is achieved through the use of the schedule to ensure that the right people are available to do their tasks at the right time. People are informed in advance so that they should not be distracted by other unfinished work. In the event that a critical resource is not available, it may be possible to re-plan so that optimum use is made of the other resources time.

Constraint management to take care of issues pro-actively

Because projects are generally complex socio-technical systems, having the right organisation structure with appropriate people assigned to each role is an important prerequisite to managing constraints effectively.
Rather than trying to fix everything at once, a focus group gives attention on fixing the constraint that is having the biggest impact in their area of influence. As soon as a constraint is fixed we identify the next constraint and fix that. Root cause analysis is used to ensure that causes and not symptoms are worked on and either fixed or managed so they do not derail the project. This focused approach to solving constraints enables the team to utilise their time to the greatest advantage. By focusing on resolving causes rather than symptoms you do the job once not multiple times.

Conflict management to explore different points of view

One of the benefits of the planning processes and management strategies we use is to harness and manage conflict to generate insights which often lead to positive change. At the end of the day when working in a complex system, conflict is inevitable so use it to explore different points of view and search for creative solutions. Effective communication is a core component in conflict management as it is about identifying the stakeholders, analysing their interests and managing their expectations.
Having a clear understanding of the project’s goal as well as the necessary conditions and critical success factors that must be fulfilled in order to achieve the goal is essential to conflict management. By being pro-active the time we spend managing conflict will normally result in a positive outcome, if we do not do this them, time will be wasted on negative discussion and other negative side effects.

Retrospectives for continuous improvement

Throughout the project lifecycle we set time aside for retrospectives which have the principle objective of achieving continuous improvement for the project. This is done by identifying what activities work for the project and continue to use and improve them, identify shortfalls and waist and then adapt so that the shortfalls are fixed and the waist is eliminated. By spending a little time on retrospectives each week or every couple of weeks we can gain much more time through the improvements we implement as a result of the feedback from the retrospective.

The following articles cover different aspects of project leadership and management that will impact on your time management.

People are the essence of project success or failure
Processes for project success
Estimating and scheduling your project work