The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) often manages projects in which every minute counts. Here’s what I’ve learned about hurrying a project toward completion. DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT Everyone wants perfection, but the priority should
be completing your task. A completed element
can be tinkered with or optimized while being of
use, but an unfinished one confuses attempts at
improvement while being of no utility at all. In the
realm of development projects, perfect is the enemy
of good. After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, UNOPS
worked hard to build shelters for survivors and
provide them with access to basic living conditions.
There is a big difference between a shelter and a
five-star hotel, but we must prioritize what is essential when we have limited time to deliver.
COMPRESSION IS CRITICAL
Schedule compression is a technique that shortens
the project duration to meet key stakeholders’
expectations without reducing scope. This may be
required if, for instance, changes in environmental
conditions, logistical constraints, economic landscape or political climate are likely to derail the
project unless it is completed immediately.
The project manager must find ways to reduce the
time it will take to complete all remaining activities.
The two classic solutions are to increase the parallelism (fast-track) and/or increase resources (crashing).
WHEN YOU COMPRESS, YOU INCREASE STRESS
Schedule compression can push time, cost and
quality to the extreme. The most significant way
to lead a team through schedule compression is by
supporting team members and understanding that
stress levels are likely to rise. Despite the level of
tolerance and experience team members build up
during every project, stress can manifest itself in
different ways, and its accumulation can come at a
significant cost to project accuracy.
Project managers must mitigate this risk
through the Three C’s Process:
Although a team working long hours, seven days a
week, can deliver its project earlier than originally
planned, the quality of delivery may be affected.
Mistakes requiring rework can end up increasing
stress levels and lengthening the time needed to
complete the project; this may negate the whole
schedule compression effort. Communicating
exactly what is expected of the team in terms of
quality and performance, despite the shortened
time frame, is necessary for successful delivery.
Schedule compression can just as easily create new
challenges as it can hasten project delivery. To
achieve results, project managers need to monitor and analyze the dynamics in the office and
the field. Organizing daily site meetings for close
coordination can help with quality control and
provides an arena in which problems with team
members can be resolved efficiently. The key word
in this process is integration.
You need to understand your staff and consider
their welfare. Accidents are more frequent when
and where people are overworked, so consider
the specifics of your team’s time-related stress
factors: What conditions are they working in?
What can you do to help? Ensuring that your
team members understand they will be properly compensated for their additional efforts
(through the provision of extra days off) can
make all the difference.
Finally, the success of all projects is related to
how we lead people and manage stress during
critical moments. Despite the sense of urgency
that triggers the schedule compression, the project
manager must effectively communicate, coordinate and consider the team to deliver results. PM
Beat the clock swiftly and carefully.
BY RICARDO VIANA VARGAS, PMI-RMP, PMI-SP, PMP RUSH HOUR
Ricardo Viana Vargas, PMI-RMP, PMI-SP, PMP, a past
PMI chair, is the director of the Sustainable Project
Management Group at the United Nations Office
for Project Services in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Even the best
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edition of PM Network
about when a project
schedule changes and
the scope does not.