An effective project manager must master the art of delegating the different aspects and tasks associated with the project. One of the key areas of focus here is the prioritization of tasks and sub-tasks.
Below are a few tips that will help you prioritize work for your project team members.
1. Know Your Business
Having a detailed understanding of your company’s core business areas is of paramount importance while handling projects. An efficient project manager must also ensure that each of the team members also understands them. It is also worthwhile to discuss the business model of your company, to understand the importance of its business in creating value, capturing this aspect, and the sustainability of the business over time. Having an in-depth knowledge of these aspects of the business will give an added edge in understanding the business model of your company. Also, it is important how the gained knowledge is assimilated. For this, it is necessary to create a mental image of the business model of your company. The gluing factor, which bridges together the assimilated information gained, is the assumption that you have adopted to bring these factors into context. Usually, a project is awarded to a company based on the industry or vertical wherein its competencies lie. The company must have developed its business model based on these requisite competencies. Therefore, understanding your company’s business and its ways of conducting business are important factors for a project manager and his/her team members.
2. Make the Project Schedule Visible to Everyone
For accurate and timely completion of a project and deliverables, visibility of the project details such as the data, schedule, and budget is a key factor. Various reasons backing this approach exist. It helps in an enhanced planning method of resources and capacities. If you have all the project-related information readily available, it accentuates a better-level view of the whole workload. Accordingly, suitable modeling, as well as resource utilization can be optimized. Higher visibility also increases the level of confidence among stakeholders, higher-level managers, and your team members. If higher visibility is ensured, then key questions can be asked and adequate solutions can be realized. It also saves time and pointless decisions. Higher visibility ensures proper allocation of the company’s resources, which helps in the timely recognition of the risks. Also, individual team members will be able to relate to their key responsibilities, now that they have visibility of the project at hand. Once major details, required for the smooth execution, are shared among relevant team members and stakeholders, the overall project management effort is optimized. It also reduces the no. of preventive solutions required.
3. Draw The Line Between Urgent And Important Tasks
Both of these words sound familiar to corporate employees. The key approach to efficient management is differentiating urgent tasks from important tasks. Usually, urgent tasks elicit your swift attention for resolution. Tasks such as telephone calls, messages, meetings, and appointments request your immediate actions. Leadership lessons from the 34th president of the United States, Mr. Dwight D. Eisenhower, throw light into a clear distinction between these two tasks. He said, “What is important is not always urgent. What is urgent, on the other hand, is not always important.” More often than not, the decision to distinguish these tasks is intuitive. A business thinker Mr. Stephen Covey had, first, conceptualized Mr. Eisenhower’s decision-making principles in the form of a matrix, commonly known as the ‘Eisenhower Matrix’. The purpose of this tool is to help professionals to distinguish between urgent tasks and important tasks. The matrix, essentially, consists of a square that is classified into 4 equal-shaped quadrants, which says
- Urgent or Important tasks
- Not urgent or Important tasks
- Urgent or Not important tasks
- Not urgent or Not important tasks
Each of these quadrants can be detailed accordingly and the tasks are listed in them. According to which quadrant the task falls in, you can carry out the activity and spend more time on those tasks.
4. Give Project Tasks a Finish Date
This part has to do with defining a realistic timeline for your project. Regardless of the wide variety of options in project management, this is the constant factor that appears in every project. The scale of a project and its overall structure are based on the level of detailing done. The overall schedule of a project can be rigorously descriptive, penned with numerous milestones and narrowed-down scope. Or it can include a broad level scope. The latter would include only a few deliverables and a shorter timeframe. Nevertheless, it is important to have the below information while defining the project schedule:
- Number of activities and sub-activities to be performed
- The dates expected by the client or the receiving party against these activities/sub-activities
- Timeline envisaged by the management against each activity
- Timeline envisaged by the team lead against each task
- Inter-relation between any activity/task
Depending on the technical and business complexity of each task, the time required for completing each task may be defined. It is of practical importance that unrealistic and/or shrewd timelines are not committed upon, without discussing with the team handling the operations.
5. Create a Project Backlog
Commonly adopted in several project management tools and software, a project backlog consists of a specified list of businesses and requirements, and is developed by the project manager. Inputs from the stakeholders are also included in a project backlog. It is, often, the major source of the entire project work. For example, there can be multiple backlog files created by the project owner. This improves the level of visibility, needed for the impending tasks. It has to be ensured that the backlog items are completely aligned with the company’s strategic interests. Modern software tools provide the functionality to define these individual tasks, under the list, to an ‘OK’ status. Considering the inferior management of a project log, the project management team might need to devote its resources, in the form of time/money, deep-diving into the root causes rather than adding value to the whole project. It is, therefore, very important to select the appropriate person, who is technically capable and fluent in project management, as the owner of the project.
6. Manage Your Team For The Long And Short Game
To prepare your project team for both the short term as well as the long term tasks, an efficient project manager should inculcate the following values in his/her team members.
- Functional Skills
- Efficient communication
- Chain of command
- Strategic thought process
- Orientation towards the goal
A project manager has to consider himself as the overall head of his/her team and inculcate confidence as a trait in his subordinates. This takes patience and a brief period. Identifying the individual strengths of his/her team members plays a key role here. Also, be open about their shortcomings and encourage each team member to elicit assistance, when necessary. Also, develop the functional skills of yourself and your team. If the manager does not have sufficient technical skills or managerial attitude, he/she cannot expect his flock to follow him/her. That said, it does not mean that the manager has to deep-dive into the technical details of every task. However, he/she would need effective project navigation skills to get the job done completed on time.
7. Add Buffers: Account For Uncertainty In Your Schedule
Timeline is one of the important aspects, to factor in, in your project’s success on time. Considering one can provide a few buffer times for every task and/or sub-task, he/she would be able to achieve the individual milestones within the stipulated time. There can be unforeseen events creating uncertainty in your project timeline. Factors such as natural calamities, right-of-way issues, federal regulations, and mutiny. Committing to super-tight schedules can impinge unwanted stress and confusion to a project. It also affects the operational efficiency of the employees. One practical approach is to provide an incremental as well as a decremented unit time against each of the tasks listed against the scope of your project. This practice also helps in negotiating the budget and performance bonuses at the end of a project, with the client. Point to point manner could be adopted while defining a project schedule and timeline. Elaborating on the scope, downtime aspects, characterization of subtasks, and allocation of resources, frequent meetings with team members on the status of the project, periodic team assessments, and flagging inconsistent work are some of the ways that are usually adopted for calculating the cumulative timeframe associated with the project.
8. Learn How To Predict Incoming Priority Shifts
Over the entire course of a project, the level of priority changes with time. In the initial days, predicting future priority shifts in a project was deemed mostly unreliable when compared to recent times. With the advent of smart computing and artificial intelligence, there is a multitude of enterprise software and qualified resources that are capable of modeling the priority levels required for different project tasks, throughout the project. As a rule of thumb, the priority associated with a task is affected by certain key variables, inherent to its operational aspects. For example, let us say that the priority level associated with a certain task at the beginning of a project, such as facilitating a contractor for the erection of a steel structure, is very high. However, as the project progresses, the priority level associated with this task reduces, until a point is reached where the certain task, though inherently needed, is no longer required. Therefore, an efficient project manager has to understand that the priority level associated with a particular task is not constant throughout the project and is subject to conditional variables.
9. Be a Proactive Manager Of Priorities
Speaking of handling priorities, efficient managing of project tasks is a desirable skill in an experienced project manager. It makes sense to develop a concise list of all the tasks, sub-tasks, and associated responsibilities. Daily, strive to keep a count of all that you would need to get done on that day. Initially, refrain from pondering over the order as well as the number of activities that need to be completed for finishing the project. It is of key importance that the significance of each task is evaluated. Further, your immediate path should be to give a rank to each of the tasks that you have written down, based on their share of importance in the project. One can even define priority based on the effect each task has, on a group of people.
Finding a solution to the list of after-effects each task might have, can also help a project manager in determining the priority. An efficient project manager has to learn better time management techniques. These can be as simple as waking up a few minutes early in the morning. A key factor to be considered while prioritizing tasks includes the total timeline that the person is willing to dedicate for each of the tasks as well as the sub-tasks. This number could be an approximate figure. Often, managers either devote very little time or spend excess time completing a single task. A certain discipline can also be developed in dedicating time to each task. It is of no use if you cannot follow a timeline and priority after preparing it. For the better of us, the key issue is developing the discipline in adhering to a planned schedule and priority level. In the end, it is important to keep calm and not get frustrated, seeing the large number of unimportant tasks that accumulate at the end of the day.
It is important not to respond to each stimulus that is aimed in your way. One should always be prepared to refute the opportunities and false claims of meeting a certain task in an unrealistic time. An efficient project manager will be always broad-minded and welcome priorities. In an ideal scenario, one should stick to their initial plan and go about completing the tasks planned for the day. However, as variables rise and demands crop up, a manager has to shift his priorities according to the situation.
An efficient manager has to deduce which situations demand negation. A key trait of a proficient project manager is one of the most important aspects of project management. Project management entails completing all the tasks that are agreed to, as well as those assignments which are carefully avoided. Considering the optimized timeline and resource allocation, some activities would need to be eliminated and not adhered to. It is one thing to be a diplomatic professional, but another one to be an even more effective project manager. Delegation of work should be facilitated in case one has multiple projects at hand.
Usually, time management and work priority go in tandem. It is commonly said that learning is a never-ending process. Hence, an efficient project manager must also be an aspiring professional, constantly keeping updated with the latest techniques of work prioritization.