Project management timing is everything, right? That’s how you succeed in most of life’s pursuits. “Where the rocky road of preparation intersects the freeway of opportunity.” This is a great way to think about education, preparation, practice, discipline, and work ethic. It is not always the best way to prioritize work. Why not use management, instead of timing, to set priorities?
IT organizations are as dependent on good and bad timing as any business. Knowing when and how to manage your team through timing issues can have a significant impact on project schedules, how engaged your teams are and the provision of awesome services to your customers. This is management.
Without management intervention, work is often prioritized based on timing:
Programmer/Analysts can be lured away from their work when they are writing design documents. When debugging software, they may be unresponsive to anything else. Sometimes it is hard to be proactive, and easier to respond to urgency. A project worker may be easy to distract in the morning when reading their email. Others may be easier to distract after lunch, late in the afternoon, or if you phone them. Project work is often placed on the back burner simply because the worker is ready to be interrupted. For software companies and IT divisions, minor defects are often reported that are not immediate priorities. These issues may be important, but they can get lost in the chaos and forgotten when the time comes to clean them up. Bad timing leads to lost opportunities for improvement. As professionals, we are paid to think not just about today, but the future as well. When inspiration strikes and great ideas materialize, the organization may be too busy to deal with them. How many times has innovation been lost this way? One day, the innovator may be told to get back to work. On a different day, the idea may have become the next great product or money-saving idea for your company. Let us say that a system failure seriously disrupted your business last month, and was overcome without solving the root cause of the problem. It has not happened since, so it’s ‘off the radar screen’. Something more fun comes along now and gets attention, consuming resources, because fun ideas can seem urgent. Would those resources be better used in preventing another system failure?
Tools for Managing Timing Issues
- Project management, via Agile, PMBOK, or any other style provides definition, duration, and critical data for projects thus keeping teams on track. As good as the tools are a success is dependent on people to execute, understand, empathize, and manage.
- Gamification of your IT work management system can keep your team interested in gaining social advantages over their co-workers. Gamification can give individuals and teams the ability to gain rewards, wear virtual badges, receive recognition on leaderboards, earn points, exchange virtual dollars for real perks and services, etc… Gamification is very attractive to the new generation of IT workers that have grown up on a steady diet of gaming; it is what makes them tick.
- There is a certain amount of distraction required to keep sane in an IT environment strewn with distraction to start with. The gaming, internet generation of workers that are arriving at IT operations everywhere are not used to focusing on anything. Through their university and college programs, they have been surfing, talking, learning, and studying, all at the same time. It will be the job of managers to hone workers into focused, deep thinkers instead of distracted information surfers. Do this by knowing that they think differently than you do and that you’re going to have to work hard to get them to go deep.
- ITIL® ready IT Work Management systems will help your team capture incidents, problems, potential improvements, and projects. Management’s task is to ensure that an ITIL® strategy is in place and those incidents, problems and opportunities are being managed and exploited fully.
- Engage the entire team in various aspects of IT and promote them up, out of IT, and into the organization if you can. This will keep IT sharp, fresh, and innovative. You may view organization motility as a bad idea however IT workers of today are looking at each work-experience as a stepping-stone on a life journey. Give them the opportunity to take the journey with your team and move them onward and through your organization when appropriate.
- Management techniques blended with technology and knowledge of the type of worker that we now have will put you in the driver seat. While you will not avoid all timing – such as bad timing or bad luck, you can do an awesome job of prioritizing using management techniques and tools.