il to plan, you are planning to fail.”
– Benjamin Franklin
One of the most common expectations people have from project management training is an immediate increase in productivity, time management, and cost savings. And those are the valid expectations, as well as the purpose of management training. However, management training and consulting are tools and only work if you use them correctly and consistently. In addition, there are no quick fixes, plus “increased productivity” can mean different things to different people. So, let’s start there.
The term “increased productivity” has to be defined from the start, for example, in the following ways:
- Increase production by 5%, 10%, 20% or more
- Perform the same amount of work in less time
- Perform the work required within budget
- All of the above or a combination thereof
As you can see, there are various ways to interpret the above term. Therefore, detailing client and/or stakeholder expectations regarding increased productivity needs to be performed first. Secondly, you need to be aware of the fact that before you can become more productive, you have to invest the time and money to get there through thorough planning, which can be a tough sell for many managers, as well as executives, who want to get started and may not have the patience to work the details out. And this is understandable. However, detailed planning is exactly what is required. For example, let’s say you work in software development and want to “increase productivity,” which you have defined as going to market in half the time you usually spend. Therefore, the first steps in planning this internal project will be:
- Determine the best methodology, which for software, it would be using an Agile/Scrum approach, for example.
- Follow up with the goal of halving the time to go to market by setting exact timelines (3, 6, 9 months)
- Verify that you have the required resources:
- Staff with the skills and capabilities needed to achieve the results you seek. If not, hire the right people and/or train the existing team.
- Hardware with the right capabilities
- Software that is up to the task
- Work environment conducive to do the work you do, as well as to take on this new challenge
- Calculate both the budget as well as schedule required to achieve the increased productivity you want. Once this is done, ensure you have the time and funds needed.
- Identify, address, and monitor the risks associated with your goal of increased productivity, such as:
- The staff gets distracted/engulfed in increasing productivity, and quality suffers.
- Lack of buy-in from staff and other stakeholders regarding increasing productivity, which can derail the process
- The process and/or technology you develop to increase productivity may be sold as a service or product. This is a positive risk, also known as an “opportunity,” and it is important to identify these, as well as the adverse risks (threats)
As you can read above, you have to spend time and energy before you can start saving them later in a more significant way. It may seem counterintuitive to some, but it won’t be easy to achieve the results you seek without proper planning. And although you might already be strapped for time, which is why you want to increase productivity in the first place, in the long run, you will save time if you put in the time and effort to plan properly now.