Even 16 years into the 21st century, there is a very common story about companies that are not leveraging the wealth of information on employee performance to their advantage. Typically, these organizations prefer their employees to stay on their desks for longer hours as a measure of productivity, motivation and commitment. In these cases, poor project management is cured by merely expanding the scope with more and more time effort.
Another sign of disrespect to performance information is a killing culture of long meetings, or even of just too frequent meetings for any topic that requires any kind of interaction –it doesn’t really matter whether you have 5 one hour meetings or one deadly, heart-melting 4 hour meeting: your work will be frozen just the same. Sometimes, organizations that try to be agile fall into this trap.
If your company is suffering from this kind of counterproductive culture that kills productivity, there are basically two ways you can change it.
Become a Dane (yes, it’s unlikely)
Your name is Richard Heart? Change it to Rikkard Hjertsen. Move your company’s HQ to Denmark, where people finish their workday regularly before 5 and still manage to get their stuff done. They say the trick is simply trust in the work completed.
Or turn Dane in your own territory. Netflix did a similar thing in 2012 when they abolished the notion of holidays for an unlimited time off policy of “freedom and responsibility”. But there’s a wicked angle to it: after just x months into this major shift, the HR manager who coined the new holiday culture was fired, and many employees are actually taking less time off to prove their commitment. Back to square one. In other words: when unnuanced, major policy shifts are likely to have unintended consequences. And they can be really hard to heal.
Other companies have been more realistic about their Danification: Spanish utility company Iberdrola simply shuts down their offices after 3 pm and forces their employees to stay focused for seven-hour shifts starting at 8 am. For a Spanish company, it’s a big deal, and so far it’s worked well.
Be smart about your people processes
The opposite way is to actually be smart about what I call your people processes.
People processes are all the organizational flows in virtue of which you assign responsibilities, allocate tasks, measure completion and (what is often overlooked) get back to people to make sure they understand what their value contribution is.
You will have to be attentive to all the nuances in your company, and treat people differently corresponding to their personalities, working styles, objectives and effectiveness.
There is no simple treat for smart people processes, but here are some recommendations that can help you find the right path.
People processes start SMART
SMART objectives can align project management and people management processes. Treat your employees with goals that are Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, and Time-bound!
Recruit objective-oriented talent
Try hard to recruit people who prefer to work based on objectives. Of course, this is easier said than done; but some things that you should be looking at in the recruitment process are resumes that display clear achievement narratives; interviewees who are energized by challenges; and employees who don’t mind taking some work home during high peak but are intelligent enough to prioritize properly.
FIFO, not FILO
Build business dependencies to reward employees who come in first and get the job done. With no surveillance into the processes, it’s easy to transform First In, First Out personalities into First In, Last Out burnout promises.
Identify critical data
This is the essential resource management data for project management:
- Allocation gaps: Of the total amount of man-hours estimated for a project, how many of them have been assigned to your resources?
- Utilization: How many man-hours are currently assigned to each of your resources? Are any of them currently having a problem of underutilization or overutilization?
An important problem of resource management data is its exhaustiveness and reliability. In other words, you need to be sure that when a resource appears as underutilized, he or she is not actually working on tasks that haven’t been registered.
That’s why you should make sure that the project management software you use meets three conditions:
- It allows you to view and compare allocation gaps and utilization stats so you can pivot your assignments and identify bottlenecks
- It is properly enforced and used by all project managers and team members
- It allows for a program and portfolio vision, so you scale utilization at the organization level
It’s really easy to adopt ITM Platform to meet all three conditions:
- Easy adoption. Our SaaS deployment, easy rollout and licensing policies allow to have project managers, portfolio owners and team members on the same platform. Additionally, with the ITM Platform Teambot team members can report their efforts directly from their Slack chatbox.
- ITM Platform is an industry leader in Project and Portfolio Management.
- Our resource management functionality combines allocation gaps and utilization statistics in a unified vision at the portfolio level.
Iterate on your data
Of course, you will have to look back at your project management data and ask a few questions, which can be addressed in project post-mortems or at a more strategic level.
You basically want to know why your performance forecasts aren’t met.
For example, you may have an average 35% excess between the estimated hours and the final effort devoted to a project. But unless you look into it with more detail, you won’t be able to know whether the problem lies in:
- Low productivity of task and project members
- Unforeseen events
- Unrealistic expectations
- Or a combination of all
You can build several HR analytics into this evaluation process, and the layer can be as complex as you want it to be. However, it’s good to keep in mind that your human resources are people and you will need to treat them with flexibility: beware of decisions based solely on data!
For example, you could start by looking at the estimation accuracy per worker, per type of project or per project manager, and start creating baseline metrics. This could then help you better compile requirements and tune time estimations to how your experts actually work.
Go beyond your usual toolkit: Social Network Analysis and others
Utilization and allocation gap metrics usually allow to identify bottlenecks, but they may not be enough. You may be interested in supplementing them with analysis of how your organization actually communicates. For example, a social network analysis based on your reporting procedures will allow to view who are the formal gatekeepers in your organization; while an empirical study of real information flows will allow you to see who is actually blocking or facilitating the processes.
Have you ever used other type of analysis and metrics? What’s your smart approach to HR analytics, and how does it contribute to improving your project management processes?