Overcoming Work Management Problems

Six Things That Threaten Collaborative Work Management

If you’re having process problems, I feel bad for you, son
I got 99 problems, but a workflow ain’t one

There are plenty of challenges implementing a collaborative work management environment in any organization. Work management problems come in all shapes and sizes.

When it comes to project management, there are also plenty of pitfalls organization need to avoid in order to resolve problems before they manifest themselves into even larger issues.

To better understand the work management problems that organizations must overcome, we’ve broken the issues down into six categories.

Task Level Contingencies: How Task Padding Occurs

There’s one major problem with estimating tasks: Whoever estimated that task is then committed to the task, and is automatically held accountable for meeting the estimates.

That means, when someone asks: “How long will it take to get this task done?” — the real question is: “What commitment will you make to getting this task done?”

What this causes is employees in charge of a specific task to add in what’s referred to as “task padding,” which can make it difficult to actually gauge how accurate the task time estimate actually is.

Tasks are comprises of two elements: the amount of work time involved and the safety net time to ensure deadlines are actually met — regardless of it was needed.

Deadline Scheduling: The Problems With Over-Planning

Giving tasks arbitrary deadlines can actually harm how quickly a task is able to be completed. When rigid deadlines are imposed, it can create problems right from the start.

The only way to ensure a project is completed on time is making sure each task along the way is completed on time. When there is too much emphasis on deadline planning, there is less time actually getting the project done.

The other problems with deadline scheduling?

  • It puts a rigid structure on a variable situation
  • Time spent on deadline scheduling has rapidly diminishing returns
  • Leads to cascading delays, hides the level of lateness and defuses focus
  • Early finishes are rarely reported
  • Guarantees frequent schedule changes
  • Encourages hand-offs before they are ready
  • Encourages multitasking (taking on too much at once)
  • Encourages Parkinson’s law (work expands to fill the time allotted)
  • Causes urgency to be determined by deadline

Critical Path Method: The Long Path

The Critical Path Method (CPM) is based on this idea: any method of getting from the start of the project to to the finish is a path. Any task on the critical path is referred that way because it cannot be delayed. Delays on critical task can risk the project completion deadline being missed. The tasks not on the critical path can be delayed without impacting the overall project’s progress.

But there are problems with the Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM) approach:

    • CPM ignores resources: This method is based solely on task dependency and duration. Because there are likely resource constraints in any project, this creates an unrealistic scenario.
    • Resource leveling changes the critical path: This assumes you can predict the exact duration for each task, which is nearly impossible since task duration changes frequently.
    • CPM pushes early starts: Starting early comes with risks. It can dilute focus, earlier starts than necessary will tend to drive multi-tasking (cause disorganization), and can cause a negative hit on cash flow from spending before necessary.

 

  • CPM results in constantly shifting schedules:  With so changes disrupting the original plan, project managers often can’t keep up with all the changes.

 

Multitasking: Juggling Too Much At Once

Although the concept of multitasking seems good in theory, it can often cause attention to be split between two many tasks – which can impact the overall attention needed toward each individual project or task.

Problems that exist within this method, include:

  • Multitasking is encouraged through fractional headcounts
  • Multi-tasking drains efficiency
  • The cost of multitasking is hidden
  • Multitasking gives the illusion of being productive
  • Multitasking complicates scheduling and control
  • Multitasking reduces throughput

Overlapping Project Starts: Too Much Work In Progress

Starting projects without visibility whether a team or organization has the capacity to take on the work can cause impacts on the structure overall. Too many projects in the pipeline can eventually slow down the entire system and can lead to poor project performance.

Without establishing a method to limit the number of projects moving at once, can cause delays and mistakes in projects. Other consequences include having too much work in progress, which causes:

  • Too much multitasking
  • A loss of completion predictability
  • Slower throughput
  • Increases the complexity of task management
  • Increases the exposure to change
  • Creates the illusion of progress
  • Creates the illusion of progress
  • Leads to project fragmentation

Poor Measures and Controls: What Doesn’t Work

It’s common to measure progress project against task deadlines. It’s also common progress to measure task progress by how much is complete to assess when it realistically can be completed. Team members are at also commonly assessed by their ability to hit project deadlines faster.

But the typical measures and controls in project and task management can create plenty of problems. How?

  • Percentage complete is a poor measure of progress: It is not an objective metric and cause incorrect scheduling.
  • Progress measurement by deadline encourages the wrong behaviour: People become too focused on their individual deadlines instead the entire project.
  • Progress measurement by deadlines obscures the relative priority of work: Time and attention being spent on nonessential, non-value-added activities.
  • Progress measurement by work completed doesn’t work: It’s retrospective, focus is diffused and obscures time management needed for the project.
  • Resource utilization doesn’t measure throughput: By focusing on cost over value, it may create more problems than solutions.

For more details on overcoming project management problems, check out Work-Relay’s “Visual Guide to Critical Chain Management (CCPM) Techniques, click here.