Is Your Team Overloaded?
As the PMO becomes recognized as the go to place in the organization for getting work done, you’ll get more and more requests. On the one hand, that’s great: it’s fantastic to know that the PMO is a valued business partner, trusted to deliver. On the other hand, how are you going to do all these projects?
When a new critical project lands on your desk, you have to find a solution – because there isn’t a PMO in the land with project delivery teams sitting around waiting for something to do.
Is your team overloaded? In this article we’ll look at three strategies for managing work when your teams are already fully occupied on current projects.
Is your team overloaded?
First, it’s worth checking if your team is currently working at capacity, or whether they are simply telling you that’s the case!
Use the reporting features for capacity planning and resource allocation in Primavera P6 or your project management tool. A workload report will tell you how much ‘free’ time team members actually have, if any. Remember that the data in your reports is only as good as the task and time data entered into the software, so you may also want to have conversations with project managers and use your professional judgement to assess how busy teams are.
Strategy 1: Improve skills
The first thing you can try is making sure the team has the right skills to do the work. When you dig into those resource reports, you might see that it’s one person in particular who is causing the bottleneck. Skilled subject matter experts are in high demand, and if that person is busy supporting multiple projects, it might be impossible to kick off yet another piece of work.
Look at what skills are required for the new work and where the bottlenecks are in existing projects. Could you upskill someone in the team to enable them to take on some of the skilled tasks? Consider ways to allocate tasks to people who are not overallocated – even if that means you have to train them how to do the job.
Capacity planning is something many PMOs take on, with a view to making sure upcoming projects have a pipeline of relevant, skilled resources available to do the work. If your PMO does not currently support training and development of project team members, it could be time to start looking at what you can do in that area.
Ideally, you’ll have spotted the resource issue far enough ahead to be able to put your selected ‘deputy’ through formal training, coaching or mentoring to improve their skills enough to support new projects.
Strategy 2: Improve productivity
If you ask around, you’ll probably hear people say that they are productive and working as hard as they can.
But are there things that slow them down?
Take a look at productivity levels in the team. Review the processes. Consider how you use project management software and whether it works for you or against you. We’ve known teams where productivity has gone up simply because they got training in how to use their tools – that improved communication and collaboration and made it easier to get work done.
Ask people for their suggestions on how to improve productivity. There might be processes that could be automated, or turned into workflows.
You won’t save days of time by streamlining a process, but you will free up a bit of time for people to do project work instead of battling with inefficiencies. Start small, make some improvements and listen out for what else your colleagues are telling you isn’t working.
Strategy 3: Prioritize incoming work
New tasks need to be prioritized, both in terms of the overall PMO project list and also for the benefit of people doing the work. They need to know how much priority a project has and whether it trumps anything already on their To Do list.
Look at what’s in the portfolio at the moment and what the impact of the new project would be. Is it really a top priority task in comparison to what’s already in progress? Talk to project sponsors and get a commercial and business view of where the project fits in the big picture.
The project approval process is one of the first areas tackled by many PMOs, so you may already have a process in place for taking on and prioritizing new work. Stick by that process, regardless of who is making demands on your teams’ time! Use data-driven approaches to show what else people are working on and protect your priority projects.
In other words: say no to projects that aren’t important, or at least, say ‘not yet’.
You can push back on incoming work when you don’t have the capacity to do it only if you have the data to back up your choices. Without resource data, executives in our experience are likely to underestimate what you’ve got in progress and how much effort that takes. You will be in for some difficult conversations about why you are struggling to do their pet projects if you don’t have the information that shows what priority work you’re busy on right now.
Project management tools give you huge amounts of data about what the team is working on, when people will be free to take up new projects and how the projects align to strategic goals, so executives can make smart choices about what projects to say yes to.
Set up regular reports and dashboard views focusing on the project list and resource capacity so you’ve always got relevant information at your fingertips.
If you’ve tried these strategies and are ready to scale up your business to keep up with the influx of new projects, it might be time to augment your team with project specialists and bring in new resources. Sometimes the answer to team overloaded challenges, is to grow so you can deliver more fantastic projects for your organization and reach those strategic goals more quickly.