Daylight Saving Time starts today, messing with our sleep patterns and wreaking havoc on our health, from elevating the risk of strokes and heart attacks to increasing the likelihood of road-related fatalities to damaging our productivity. So, why do we do this again? On this daylight saving time, I challenge project managers to inventory their outdated practices and habits and ditch the ones that don't realize benefits--especially considering we have one less hour in which to get things done this week. Here are some preliminary suggestions for which project management activities to examine that you may have on auto pilot:
1. Deliverables that you produce out of habit. Do your clients actually read the meeting notes you generate? How about the charter that you've been working on for the last four weeks? That lengthy white paper that no one has time to read? If the answer is yes, that's great, and full steam ahead! If the answer is no or maybe, whip up a less painful format that takes less time to deliver and has a better chance of generating meaningful discussion. Present this new approach to your clients as a time-saving and cost-saving innovation that'll put them on par with their competition, bring them into the 21st century, and, more importantly, free up your staff's time to not only focus on your client's strategic priorities but also better develop themselves. Project managers shouldn't be afraid to work ourselves out of a job.
2. Broken processes. If we constantly find ourselves convening ad hoc meetings and pulling long hours to turn something around at the last minute, it's a sign that something on our project is not working correctly. Take a look at the root cause of why things are the way they are. Are the communication channels clear and consistent? Is the staffing plan appropriate for the nature of the work? Are staff roles and responsibilities clearly defined? Are we planning far enough in advance? If that's not possible, how can we better predict the nature of the requests to which we are being asked to respond? Removing superfluous deliverables from our work plan will free up time and energy for addressing some of these more challenging process improvement questions.
3. Ancillary meetings. Go through your calendar and inventory the meetings that you participate in weekly. Ask yourself about the purpose of each meeting on your calendar. If you can't readily answer that question, ask the meeting organizer. In some cases, it may turn out that your Monday meeting exists because you've always met on Mondays. Perhaps the meeting can be handled over email. Perhaps it is beneficial for your staff or a subset of your staff, but you don't necessarily need to attend. Re-evaluate your one-on-one meetings with your staff and supervisors as well and adjust the frequency based on need. If you are meeting with someone who is new to a particular task or project, you'll want to check in every few days. Someone who is more ingrained in the role, however, will not need to meet with you as frequently.
4. Networking events you don't enjoy. This is related to the meetings category above, but you'll also want to evaluate the activities that you participate in out of habit. Which ones are outdated given the current competitive landscape and your current career objectives? While you may be used to getting lunch with this person every six weeks out of habit, it may be the case that neither of you comes away from the interaction energized. If you're not sure whether this is true, test out scaling back the meeting frequency or propose skipping one of your get-togethers. If the other person doesn't raise any objections, then most likely neither of you minds very much. You should focus on keeping your inner circle small and your new interactions just that--refreshing and relevant.