Project Management

Voices on Project Management

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Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with--or even disagree with--leave a comment.

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Cyndee Miller
Lynda Bourne
Kevin Korterud
Conrado Morlan
Peter Tarhanidis
Mario Trentim
Jen Skrabak
David Wakeman
Wanda Curlee
Christian Bisson
Ramiro Rodrigues
Soma Bhattacharya
Emily Luijbregts
Sree Rao

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Jorge Valdés Garciatorres
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Dan Goldfischer
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sanjay saini
Bernadine Douglas
Judy Umlas
Abdiel Ledesma
Michael Hatfield
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Alfonso Bucero
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Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina
William Krebs
Marian Haus
Shobhna Raghupathy
Peter Taylor
Joanna Newman
Jess Tayel
Lung-Hung Chou
Rebecca Braglio
Roberto Toledo
Geoff Mattie
Dmitri Ivanenko PMP ITIL

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How to Avoid Overloading Your Team During the COVID-19 Crisis

By Mario Trentim

 

In a previous article, I discussed the COVID-19 crisis from a risk management point of view. As PMOs around the globe work through the pandemic, unexpected challenges continue to arise. Countries are implementing several restrictions, as extreme times call for extreme measures to contain the disease.

 

It is expected that many teams will be working remotely for at least four to eight weeks. In a push to stay connected while working remote, PMOs are relying on communication and collaboration tools. But is it enough?

 

Working from Home Is Different Now

Although many organizations are accustomed to flexible and remote work, this marks the first time that we have seen virtual teams operating on a global scale. And we’re not talking about the traditional home offices we once knew. Project professionals are quarantined, which means they are working with their spouses and kids nearby—and sometimes even babysitters, nannies and home maintenance staff are part of that equation. Keep in mind that your team members are very concerned and stressed at this time. And while they may be out of the office, they are part of a completely different team at home, which comes with its own set of challenges and needs.

 

In a meeting with my team this week, I level set with them. I don’t expect my team to put in exactly eight hours each day. It is okay if their kids show up during conference calls and meetings, and they can set an unavailable status in case they need to take care of personal or family duties. Cultivating a great team spirit and reinforcing an environment of accountability strengthens team morale.

 

Operations and Projects Must Go On

If we all stop working, companies may not survive. In fact, a number of companies have already shuttered their doors for good ahead of the pandemic’s peak. Everyone is forecasting difficult times ahead. And it is our duty as directors and managers to make rational decisions and to plan diligently for the future. That said, what happens to our projects?

 

From a portfolio management perspective, we are going through deep reevaluation due to major strategic changes. Projects were canceled or paused and investments were postponed. But we also have incoming and extremely urgent projects.

Organizations implemented their business contingency plans, and many resulted in additional projects. It could be a project related to supply chain and vendors, IT systems to enable remote work or new product development, among other initiatives. As the crisis looms, these projects become even more urgent.

 

Be Realistic When Planning for New Projects

As we plan for these urgent new projects, we must be very careful. We must take into consideration high risk and uncertainty and pay attention to the estimates.

 

Remember that people are not only working remotely (which is already a challenge for some organizations), people are quarantined. I advise you to develop a solid plan based on requirements and deliverables prioritization, understanding you might have to adjust planning to overcome bumps along the way.

 

Estimates and buffers are crucial. Something that takes two weeks to get done when we are collocated might take more time virtually. Therefore, during this period of quarantine, plan for more execution time.

 

Capacity Planning and Resource Utilization Are Crucial

During this crisis, capacity planning and resource utilization are extremely important. Imagine your team as traffic on a highway: When traffic is high, a minor crash might severely impact traffic flow. Now imagine all the people are distracted and in a hurry at the same time. You might end up with multiple minor crashes that add up to total failure in delivering the urgent project you need right now to overcome the coronavirus crisis.

 

In order to be successful, PMOs and project managers are tracking resource utilization with more details during the pandemic. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Determine capacity of resources available
    1. Calculate the number of people available to do project work, taking into consideration qualifications and skills (categorization).
  2. Determine hours of availability
    1. Convert the number of people into working hours and derive a true representation of availability. For example, let’s say you have:
      1. 10 Engineers part time (50%) = 800h/month
      2. 20 Technicians part time (50%) = 800h/month
      3. 50 Developers full time = 1,600h/month
  3. Set utilization targets
    1. Calculate utilization targets for all project resources below 80 percent as a best practice. Use that data to limit the number of active projects. While resources working below the target may seem inefficient, resources working above that target are likely to introduce costly delays and errors into the projects.
  4. Limit or modify the queue
    1. After conducting careful planning and estimates for every project, you are good to go with the authorization if there are resources available. Monitor and balance the portfolio as needed.

 

The aforementioned steps aren’t some big secret. They are more sensitive now. Unfortunately, some organizations are responding to the crisis with too many uncoordinated initiatives that will result in more harm than good. If we want to overcome the project impact of COVID-19, it is time to conduct:

  • Realistic planning
  • Diligent prioritization
  • Careful resource management
  • Frequent monitoring, controlling and balancing

 

To conclude, do not forget that your team members are quarantined. It’s not business as usual. That means lower productivity and some availability obstacles.

 

How is your PMO navigating the COVID-19 crisis?

Posted by Mario Trentim on: March 23, 2020 12:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (17)
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