Did you know that more than half of organizations have experienced a failed project within the past year? While it’s easy to blame market conditions, competitors, or insufficient resources, the usual culprit is often much closer to home.
A lack of effective leadership and obsolete processes is an illness that significantly impacts a project’s success. Effective leadership motivates and develops teams to their maximum potential and constantly evaluates business processes to ensure maximum productivity through the life cycle of a project.
Whether you’re a veteran or junior PM, you’ll be able to incorporate some of the skills the most effective PMs commit to their projects with these tips.
What is workload management?
Workload management is effective delegation and the development of team productivity. The structure is often directed by frameworks and methodologies such as SCRUM, Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), or Kanban.
Working under the umbrella of these theories, tasks are distributed accordingly. Rules for prioritization and change management are also put into place and define the Definition of Done and the Definition of Ready. Your role as the project manager is to optimize and customize these principles to achieve the best output.
Why is workload management important?
Proper workload management results in a more productive team and a strong sense of the health of a project. You’ll have a clear view of predicting bottlenecks and draft a plan of attack before they occur.
With a well–managed workload process, you’ll determine whether more resources are required to meet milestones and who your most effective resources are.
An added bonus is team members are motivated and therefore emotionally invested in the results of their work. The results are a more productive team, less churn, and greater communication, increasing quality, and introducing more solutions from team members.
Five steps to proper workload management
1. Analyze the workload of your team
It is hard to understand the actual amount of workload for each member when there is a heap of tasks and multiple projects running simultaneously. Here is what you need to do to determine the workload of the entire team and individual team members –
- Make a full list of projects and processes under the responsibility of your team. They include internal department projects and segments of mutual company projects.
- Define the timeline and scope of each project. Learn their size and difficulty as well. Identify the parts of the project that are helmed by your team.
- Divide the projects into tasks and subtasks. When you know the total work of your team, you can break the projects into tasks that are easy to assign and track.
- Set the priorities for each task. They will help you with local and global planning.
- Analyze the bandwidth each team member has. Learn the amount of time and effort each member can devote to the project. This will help you assign tasks to the right persons and have realistic expectations.
2. Divide projects into tasks and subtasks
Once you have an idea of your team’s workload, you can define task distribution. Allocating resources should be done so that the workload is fairly distributed depending on the capabilities of each team member.
Here is how you can allocate resources effectively:
- First, build an iteration (i.e., a sprint) based on the highest priority tasks first. Be sure to check any task dependencies have been met and also discuss any potential risks related to those functions. If high–priority tasks are waiting on dependencies, plan out how to meet the dependencies first.
The next step is to have a planning meeting with the team to determine the complexity of the planned tasks. This is often done by assigning a task quantity of Story Points to determine how difficult a task may be.
- Make sure that you set realistic expectations when assigning tasks to the team. An effective strategy is to analyze how many Story Points a team member is typically capable of accomplishing. You’ll find that more junior members may exceed at completing a lot of less complex tasks but may get bogged down with complicated tasks.
- Create workflows to track which tasks are completed and which are pending. Depending on the nature of the project, a daily standup meeting or, at a minimum, a weekly team meeting to discuss completed tasks and potential blockers is imperative. Take in the team’s feedback and ensure they have the tools and resources to complete their work on time.
3. Visualize progress and set realistic deadlines
As you analyze progress and receive feedback, be sure to resolve problems as soon as they arrive. Frequently, business needs can change mid-stream, and this is where your change management strategy comes into play.
Typical examples would be changes in a feature or if a dependency was too complex to implement as planned. You can refer to priorities in these events and recalibrate expected delivery by swapping out future priorities with current priorities not ready for completion.
4. Set priorities for faster execution
Whether you’re working on a startup and are looking for ways to improve your product development process and deliver a Most Viable Product (MVP) or reverse-engineering an established product, always keep an eye on the velocity to maximize execution. Through proper planning detailed above, you should have a strong sense of dependencies as well as team capabilities.
Plan out your long–term workload via a project roadmap. Set a monthly or quarterly deliverable schedule for the project’s life for completed workload and annotate it with risk factors.
5. Plan for challenges
Resource scarcity is a reality in even the best-funded companies. Some of the most successful companies will set strict budgets for time and expenses and may not budge to procure additional resources. The ability to control both your team and its results is a cornerstone of workload management.
The best way to analyze your workload management and mitigate problems is by using the right tools. A full PM suite such as Azure DevOps or Jira is a common solution for larger projects. Other options include Trello, Asana, and Basecamp. Among their advantages are instant task modeling, the ability to control each step of a task, assigning specific terms, instant reports, etc.
No matter your choice, from a workload management perspective, reports are essential to optimize productivity. In daily meetings, you can bring up bug reports, velocity, burndown, and other important factors to investigate any lags in productivity.
For instance, if you promote a website, you need in–time reports reflecting current search results positions, visitor numbers changes, a number of links to the website, etc. Those reports are easy to make automatically by using the SEO Report Generator that includes various report options and gathers website performance data (you can also gather it from website monitoring tools), keyword ranking analysis, competitor research, etc.
Conflict and motivation management
Proper workflow management is nothing without these two essential components. You must learn how to motivate your team and avoid conflicts. It is not just an obvious fact but a basis for numerous research attempts and discoveries.
It can be crucial in raising productivity. At the same time, its lack can destroy a team and the project as a whole. A motivated member is significantly more productive than an unmotivated professional. Here are basic recommendations:
- Involve your team in the process. The best methods are personal interviews and group meetings. Use live presentations with Q&A sections. They must not be boring and contain only pertinent details. During personal chats with members, emphasize their importance for the project, and ensure the tasks they get do not exceed their abilities.
- Let members feel their contribution to the project. For instance, even minor success, a well-drawn button for the website, must not be ignored. Examine all the results by highlighting the most successful parts. Explain how these parts will affect the final global result.
- Your faith and optimism are important. Team members look at their team leader, copy their appearance and mood directly or subconsciously. You need to feel the atmosphere and extinguish possible tensions. The best ways to do it are a simple smile, a couple of business compliments, recognizing work well done, or a good story from real life.
- Assign detailed and clear tasks. When a team member knows exactly what to do, it will be easier for them to meet the deadline and bring qualitative results.
- Give adequate feedback. It does not concern a teacher giving a student good or bad grades. You need to emphasize positive moments, compare the progress of different team members, and always mention the practical results of their activity.
Communication issues at work?
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No team can do without conflicts. As a leader, you need to resolve them and make them easier for both sides. Conflicts in a team are a separate discipline with its rules, terms, and knowledge systems. It will take hundreds of pages to cover the whole issue. Here, we’ll just give some general recommendations:
- The majority of conflicts inside a team appear due to an unwillingness to listen and to explain. Let a team member tell the full vision of the problem. Do not interrupt them. Ask if they have finished their explanation. Pay attention to the words and intonation that members use. From your side, do not tire a person with long monologues (they must not exceed 20 minutes).
- While explaining something, try using not only words but images, feelings, etc.
- If you need to criticize, do it properly. Speak only about your attitude toward the result of the work, not the person who has done it. Touch only action mistakes, not the features of personality. In your critical explanation, pay the majority of attention to work that has been done well (80% of the time). Mention what you expect to see in the future (15% of the time), and tell about things to be changed (5% of the time).
- Try to assign tasks according to the abilities of a member. If a team member cannot solve a task, it is better to delegate it to a more competent member. At the same time, you must not leave the first teammate without work. Suggest them taking a part of the responsibilities of the person who substitutes them. It is the only way to resolve a possible conflict without interrupting a team’s atmosphere and work process.
Leveraging workload strategies
Workload and team management are essential both for a separate project and a company as a whole. Mind the proper algorithm of your activities, use the proper tools, and learn the ups and downs of your team to obtain results.
As soon as you start applying the mechanisms described in this article, you’ll see positive changes. And in some time, you’ll experience enough to solve more complicated tasks simultaneously.