A good project manager has a broad skill set. Shooting troubles, putting out fires, and making the most of limited resources to pull off the seemingly impossible are all part of a day’s work. But one thing no manager can do is arrange for more hours in a day. We are stuck with 24/7 for the foreseeable future, so the effective response is to direct energy toward time management.
Time management is the art of arranging activities and allotting time to each in such a way that maximum work is achieved in the shortest time with the least effort. This is certainly not fresh information to anyone involved in project management and resource planning. It is also not news that ineffective time management is one of the most common causes of project failure. Time management presents a particular challenge to project managers because they need to manage their own time as well as that of an entire project team.
Strategies for Improving Project Time Management
Foundational to accurate time management is the creation of work and task breakdown structures that decompose the project in a logical manner geared to efficiency. Identifying tasks correctly and with an understanding of underlying detail is critical. Performing an efficient task breakdown and estimating individual task completion times is difficult, especially when undertaking unfamiliar types of work. During this phase of project planning, managers can benefit greatly from the input of the team members who will own each activity. The use of a Gantt chart program to graphically present task timelines and inter dependencies is also highly recommended.
When time budgets have been developed for the deliverables identified in the WBS, the next step is establishing a project time baseline. Project phases and deliverable completion dates along with key milestones are noted on the baseline. The baseline provides a benchmark that makes it simple to track project performance and produce progress reports at predetermined intervals. Remember that any changes in the original project scope necessitate changes in the time baseline.
Effective resource allocation is the key piece of the time management puzzle. Poor allocation and utilization of resources is a primary contributor to time and budget overages and project failure. A good manager knows the skillsets, strengths, and weaknesses of each team member. A feel for the correct distribution of workloads according to capability is essential, as is an idea of how long individuals and teams need to complete assigned tasks. Ideally, a manager will have immediate access to a planning tool like Timewax that offers interactive Gantt charts and resource planning boards that provide a clear and up-to-date overview of project status at all times.
Get the Right Tools
Although it is a complex undertaking even on the simplest projects, effective time management is just like any other job: good strategies and the right tools make it easier. Calendaring tools, planning boards, and Gantt chart applications are invaluable assets when it comes to getting and staying on track time-wise. The Gantt chart in particular is designed to support easy visualization of planned and actual task timing throughout the project life span and has a place in every project planning tool box.