You won’t be alone if you’ve heard the senior management mantra of “doing more with less” when it comes to managing projects.
It’s a feature of today’s business practice: we need to be able to turn out the same quality results with fewer resources, and perhaps even do a bit more than we used to by getting better value out of the resources we do have.
However, by ‘resources’ we often mean ‘people’ and ‘doing more work with fewer people’ isn’t something that many managers relish. You can’t magic up time or extra skills for your staff and sometimes it looks like hitting your goals is impossible.
Here are some tips for how to squeeze a bit more out of the resources available to you without risking your team burning out.
Allocate Resources Effectively
When you’ve got limited resources you need to be using them in the best way possible. Make sure that you know what skills each person has so that you can best match them to the available tasks. Factor in their vacation time and other leaves of absence so that you know when they are available to work on projects.
To do this really well you’ll need resource allocation software, or at least some kind of tracker or shared diary system that lets you see who is doing what when. The greater your visibility over the project tasks and the skills needed to do them, the easier it is to match people to the work as it comes up.
The benefit of doing this is that you’ve got the right people on the job. They will be more effective because they’ve got the skills and experience to do the job quickly and efficiently, and, you’d hope making fewer mistakes along the way. If you aren’t managing resources effectively you could end up having to give the task to someone who doesn’t have the same level of experience, and then running the risk of it taking longer or being completed to a lower level of quality.
Top tip: Don’t allocate anyone at 100%. A full-time resource will still only be available to your project at 80% capacity because it’s the nature of the job that they will have other meetings to attend, training webinars to dial into, phone calls and lunch breaks that eat into their available time.
OK, this isn’t going to work for every project, but there are often situations where you can shortcut some activity and get a similar result.
Consider crashing your project schedule or fast-tracking as much of the work as you can. This will mean your team are available to pick up other tasks sooner and can move on to other projects more quickly.
Take shortcuts with your admin as well. Lean on your project management software to do as much of the heavy lifting as it can. Use real-time reporting and don’t duplicate effort by creating additional project reports. Reuse documents from other projects as templates instead of starting from scratch. Think creatively about where you could find little time savings, as over time these add up.
Ask Your Team To Help
Talk to your team. Some of them might be very happy to take on paid overtime. They might also have access to a network of people unavailable to you, for example a child in education who is looking for a work placement over the summer. Interns and students can be great sources of additional help, and they are cheaper than asking a 20-year veteran to type meeting minutes.
Equally, they may have some other creative solutions about how you can balance the organization’s demands for greater output with the need to keep costs low. Many subject matter experts are aware of developments in their own field that could assist with this – automated testing tools, for example, are an area that has seen significant growth and maturity and could save a team a lot of time. Someone with a particular interest in this area may already be aware of technology that could help you achieve your goals in a cost-effective way.
Plan Forward #1: Prioritizing
Forward planning can help in two ways. First, it lets you prioritize effectively. Second, it gives you the information you need to be ready for the upcoming work.
Prioritization really helps you manage to do more with less because you are doing the right things. Clear priorities let the team focus on what is really important and not get side-tracked on to projects that sound urgent but that really don’t contribute to the company’s strategic goals.
Get your Project Management Office involved in prioritizing work: they will be able to help you align your project work to the organization’s overall objectives.
Plan Forward #2: Getting Ready For New Work
When you have a clear view of priorities and when these projects will be coming on stream, you can plan that work into the year. The most important thing is to make sure that your team has the skills to do the work. That will avoid the expense of contractors or buying in particular expertise on a project. If you know the need is coming, you can factor in the training now.
The business case for training can be made even when money is tight. If you can link the training benefits to a cost saving in the future, then training often pays for itself. For example, training one of your team in search engine optimization will avoid the need to bring in an agency resource to do this when your new website launches next year. Planning your training needs around your upcoming projects is a very cost-effective way of keeping staff motivated and getting the skills you need internally.
These are some of the things that you can do without having to resort to asking your team to simply work longer hours. Of course, you know your team and your business best, so think about how you can flex these ideas to suit your workplace culture and consider what else you could do to motivate, inspire and empower your team to deliver their best results.