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Topics: Information Technology, Teams
How to increase PM capacity with project coordinators and/or administrative staff
Hi all,

If you were a PM with too many projects to look after and keep on track, getting additional experienced PMs to share the project load is is not an option, but you do have access to administrative resources and some project coordinating resources, what would you do in terms of delegation so that you can increase your own bandwidth to deal with the too many projects?

It's the situation I found myself in currently. I'm currently juggling 3 software development projects of varying sizes, in varying stages. But there are at least that many more that needs project management effort from me. When I said I can't take on more projects without dropping the balls somewhere, I'm told I need to figure out how to delegate some of what I do to others, so that I could "take on" more projects, while keeping my eyes on all of them.

It's a challenge I'd like to meet. I'm still trying to formulate my own ideas, but I would love to know your thoughts and suggestions.

TIA!
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Hello,

You need to identify the SPOCS - Project Coordinators for each area in your Project and delegate the related work to the SPOCS.

Have internal reviews with the SPOCS to understand and get control on the execution of the work. Maintain proper Project Templates, for reporting.

Once all reviews done, integrate all the information into one place, to present the overall Progress of the Project to the Customer or Business.

This way you can manage multiple Projects at a time with the help of the SPOCS.

Thanks & Regards,
Venkat.
Hi Hanh,
you can work on the demand side and on the supply side.

Demand: it is proven that multitasking lowers output and efficiency. So the best practice is to establish a portfolio management that funnels all requests and puts them on a sequence. If you can, let the requesters discuss priorities, so give them choices and guardrails. If there is a strategy, you may use it to find default priorities.
You may reduce demand on staff by refining the process and outsource some of it (e.g. testing, documentation, maintenance). A nice strategy is to outsource it to requestors, they soon will become bottlenecks. Or you are able to implement more collaboration between requestor and delivery like thru Scrum, then most risk will fall back on the product owner anyhow.

Supply:
You can use staff augmentation, e.g. thru cheap 'assistance' from students, gig-workers or a partnership contract with a supply organization. The downside is you will have devote more time on managing this (hiring, onboarding, escalations and so on). So there is even a natural limit of how much you can augment.
Delegation is a critical leadership skill. The best managers I’ve worked with were excellent at delegation, both based on my own perception and also how fast they rose to executives.

When you are assigned assistants, first you need to figure out their capabilities. Part of this is talking to them about experience, skills, and interests. As you go, you can assign them increasing level of responsibility and see how they do.

You also need to figure out what you can delegate. Most people can delegate far more than they might think. To delegate more, you need to:

1) Give up more control over the end product. They may not do it exactly like you want, but that’s OK. If you need it exactly your way, then your micromanagement will slow everything down.

2) Acknowledge they will make mistakes, and that it is OK too. Most mistakes are no big deal.

As for subject matter, if they have specific technical skills that match some of the project needs, you can delegate some oversight of that aspect of the project(s). They need to communicate with you regularly on what is going on and hopefully you can provide minor direction.

Administrative tasks like building status reports is very time consuming and is another good area for delegation. If often requires talking to people, pulling data out of systems and building charts. For them to do that well, you need to provide a template of the information you need. You will need to review it and probably provide some input but try not to “wordsmith” it as it will decrease their engagement. Any problems will now be yours, not theirs so why care?

Delegating some reporting responsibilities will also provide them the opportunity for visibility and growth. Don’t set them up for failure and determine what they can present. If they can fill in for you in some meetings that requires discussing the cost and schedule metrics, it can work well. It doesn’t require technical skill, just awareness of why the status is what it is. They don’t have to be able to answer technical questions. The best answer can be, “I don’t know but I will find out.”

The most important part is your communication with your delegates. You need to be clear on what you need including providing productive feedback, and you need to spend the time to listen and answer their questions. You also need to ensure they know that although they are your aides, your job is to make them successful making you successful. You are now a team rather than they are your serfs.
...
1 reply by Victoria Fuglister
Oct 29, 2019 12:44 PM
Victoria Fuglister
...
I very much agree with Keith's statement to delegate some of the status report building and other reporting responsibilities. I have found these tasks are the most tedious and time consuming when in reality these can be completed by anyone as long as the project plan has been maintained appropriately. If you can delegate those deliverables and work towards only needing to review prior to sending, this can save you time and allow you to focus on the more strategic aspect of project management
Hi Hanh
Interesting your question for reflection
Thanks for sharing

I absolutely agree with Keith's comment
I would just add that you need to know if the people you delegate have the skills, knowledge and attitudes to delegate.
If not, train these people to gain the knowledge and confidence to do what they have delegated.
Tasks are delegated ..
The responsibility remains yours
Oct 29, 2019 11:37 AM
Replying to Keith Novak
...
Delegation is a critical leadership skill. The best managers I’ve worked with were excellent at delegation, both based on my own perception and also how fast they rose to executives.

When you are assigned assistants, first you need to figure out their capabilities. Part of this is talking to them about experience, skills, and interests. As you go, you can assign them increasing level of responsibility and see how they do.

You also need to figure out what you can delegate. Most people can delegate far more than they might think. To delegate more, you need to:

1) Give up more control over the end product. They may not do it exactly like you want, but that’s OK. If you need it exactly your way, then your micromanagement will slow everything down.

2) Acknowledge they will make mistakes, and that it is OK too. Most mistakes are no big deal.

As for subject matter, if they have specific technical skills that match some of the project needs, you can delegate some oversight of that aspect of the project(s). They need to communicate with you regularly on what is going on and hopefully you can provide minor direction.

Administrative tasks like building status reports is very time consuming and is another good area for delegation. If often requires talking to people, pulling data out of systems and building charts. For them to do that well, you need to provide a template of the information you need. You will need to review it and probably provide some input but try not to “wordsmith” it as it will decrease their engagement. Any problems will now be yours, not theirs so why care?

Delegating some reporting responsibilities will also provide them the opportunity for visibility and growth. Don’t set them up for failure and determine what they can present. If they can fill in for you in some meetings that requires discussing the cost and schedule metrics, it can work well. It doesn’t require technical skill, just awareness of why the status is what it is. They don’t have to be able to answer technical questions. The best answer can be, “I don’t know but I will find out.”

The most important part is your communication with your delegates. You need to be clear on what you need including providing productive feedback, and you need to spend the time to listen and answer their questions. You also need to ensure they know that although they are your aides, your job is to make them successful making you successful. You are now a team rather than they are your serfs.
I very much agree with Keith's statement to delegate some of the status report building and other reporting responsibilities. I have found these tasks are the most tedious and time consuming when in reality these can be completed by anyone as long as the project plan has been maintained appropriately. If you can delegate those deliverables and work towards only needing to review prior to sending, this can save you time and allow you to focus on the more strategic aspect of project management
In my personal experience this situation was taken as an opportunity to train new project mangers to be assigned to future projects inside the company. It worked.
Thank you all for responding. There are some ideas here I can delve into deeper to see if I can come up with somethings that works.

The challenge for me is just what you're pointing to Luis. The folks who are available to help me have limited skills and knowledge relating to software development and project management, not for their lack of trying though. In software development projects, on which I work, I find myself regularly relying on my knowledge and experience of software development to perform my PM tasks: to ask the right questions, to understand issues descriptions & reports, to facilitate discussions, to identify emerging issues, to generally communicate with the team. The delegates don't have this knowledge. They, for the most part, don't understand the lingo that the technical teams use. So, often, they are unable to be engaged or adequately informed in team discussions. Then the question for me becomes: which part of my work can I carve out that can be done effectively without domain knowledge and without strong PM skills, so that the folks I'd rely on to manage these projects can be successful.

Some concrete ideas i'm getting from you all include the writing of status reports, perhaps meeting facilitation for non-contentious topics. I'll need to work on templates, as suggested. I hope to figure out more though.

Thanks for the suggestions. They help with thinking.
...
2 replies by Keith Novak and Sergio Luis Conte
Oct 29, 2019 1:32 PM
Sergio Luis Conte
...
This is a mostly forgotten duty in project management: you must take knoledge of the field where you are assigned before to start working as project manager. You must not a subject matter expert but you must take knoledge. Process to deal with that have been defined long time ago for example by the CMU SEI. So, if those people do not understand that then they are lost if they want to work as project managers.
Oct 29, 2019 2:35 PM
Keith Novak
...
Just because they don't have domain knowledge now, doesn't mean you can't help them learn more as you go so that they can do more over time. That will take time an effort on your part, but it is an investment in increasing both your capabilities.

Sometimes I delegate tasks to someone that are a bit above their knowledge level for a purpose: They don't know what they don't know. I may assign them to get some information from some technical sub-team. They come back with more questions than answers, and we sit down and discuss. Then they can go back to the individual, have a more informed conversation about my original need, and hopefully this time they come back with more answers than questions. They don't have to know everything, but if you teach them about things that occur frequently, they can be more independent the next time they do occur.

It may seem like it is more work than it is worth in the beginning. Unfortunately if you don't spend that time, your ability to increase capacity is limited by your (Efficiency)*(Time) and there are only so many hours in a day.
Oct 29, 2019 1:18 PM
Replying to Hanh Vu
...
Thank you all for responding. There are some ideas here I can delve into deeper to see if I can come up with somethings that works.

The challenge for me is just what you're pointing to Luis. The folks who are available to help me have limited skills and knowledge relating to software development and project management, not for their lack of trying though. In software development projects, on which I work, I find myself regularly relying on my knowledge and experience of software development to perform my PM tasks: to ask the right questions, to understand issues descriptions & reports, to facilitate discussions, to identify emerging issues, to generally communicate with the team. The delegates don't have this knowledge. They, for the most part, don't understand the lingo that the technical teams use. So, often, they are unable to be engaged or adequately informed in team discussions. Then the question for me becomes: which part of my work can I carve out that can be done effectively without domain knowledge and without strong PM skills, so that the folks I'd rely on to manage these projects can be successful.

Some concrete ideas i'm getting from you all include the writing of status reports, perhaps meeting facilitation for non-contentious topics. I'll need to work on templates, as suggested. I hope to figure out more though.

Thanks for the suggestions. They help with thinking.
This is a mostly forgotten duty in project management: you must take knoledge of the field where you are assigned before to start working as project manager. You must not a subject matter expert but you must take knoledge. Process to deal with that have been defined long time ago for example by the CMU SEI. So, if those people do not understand that then they are lost if they want to work as project managers.
Oct 29, 2019 1:18 PM
Replying to Hanh Vu
...
Thank you all for responding. There are some ideas here I can delve into deeper to see if I can come up with somethings that works.

The challenge for me is just what you're pointing to Luis. The folks who are available to help me have limited skills and knowledge relating to software development and project management, not for their lack of trying though. In software development projects, on which I work, I find myself regularly relying on my knowledge and experience of software development to perform my PM tasks: to ask the right questions, to understand issues descriptions & reports, to facilitate discussions, to identify emerging issues, to generally communicate with the team. The delegates don't have this knowledge. They, for the most part, don't understand the lingo that the technical teams use. So, often, they are unable to be engaged or adequately informed in team discussions. Then the question for me becomes: which part of my work can I carve out that can be done effectively without domain knowledge and without strong PM skills, so that the folks I'd rely on to manage these projects can be successful.

Some concrete ideas i'm getting from you all include the writing of status reports, perhaps meeting facilitation for non-contentious topics. I'll need to work on templates, as suggested. I hope to figure out more though.

Thanks for the suggestions. They help with thinking.
Just because they don't have domain knowledge now, doesn't mean you can't help them learn more as you go so that they can do more over time. That will take time an effort on your part, but it is an investment in increasing both your capabilities.

Sometimes I delegate tasks to someone that are a bit above their knowledge level for a purpose: They don't know what they don't know. I may assign them to get some information from some technical sub-team. They come back with more questions than answers, and we sit down and discuss. Then they can go back to the individual, have a more informed conversation about my original need, and hopefully this time they come back with more answers than questions. They don't have to know everything, but if you teach them about things that occur frequently, they can be more independent the next time they do occur.

It may seem like it is more work than it is worth in the beginning. Unfortunately if you don't spend that time, your ability to increase capacity is limited by your (Efficiency)*(Time) and there are only so many hours in a day.
Hi Hahn,

Maybe that may sound strange but I am wondering how much deep IT knowledge is really needed to manage a project successfully.

I was thinking if core PM skills could not prove to be sufficient, especially listening with understanding and problem solving accompanied by logical thinking. I would imagine that a person with such skills would not understand every technical detail but still would be able to lead the team to draw a correct conclusion

Of course such a person should have an easy contact to technical team to understand the necessary minimum, but this could be done offline. The person would be still under your supervision.

If your company wants to assign you more projects I think it is great appreciaton of your performance. If the company could then create a necessary environment (ex. recruit new staff), I would be as well interested in your plan.

Lukasz
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