Execution Management 02: Three ways time gets wasted during project execution 


In the last Execution Management Minute , we established that managers must focus on time efficiency rather than resource efficiency in projects. A natural question is, “How can we squeeze projects for time when it is difficult to meet even current timelines in projects?”
After all, projects are riddled with uncertainties. Work usually takes longer than estimated; technical issues materialize; vendors don’t deliver on time; approvals get held up; resources are not available as promised. No matter how painstakingly you plan, in execution you will have surprises!
But a closer look reveals that rather than uncertainties themselves being the main culprit behind project delays and overruns, the major problem is in how we manage these uncertainties.
Management mistake No. 1: Starting projects ASAP .
Since project managers recognize that not getting resources in a timely manner is a major problem, they compete aggressively for shared resources. They start a project as soon as possible, hoping that it will maximize their chances of securing the needed resources. In reality, the consequence is the exact opposite. Resources become thinly spread, queues increase, and projects take much longer than they should.
Management mistake No. 2: Treating planning estimates as execution commitments.
This flawed practice means estimates must include safety time to account for the high uncertainty in projects. Project plans get longer yet managers are willing to pay this price to ensure that projects will finish on time. Unfortunately, in execution, while most tasks finish on time, almost none of the tasks finish early. This phenomenon of work expanding to fill the time available is called Parkinson’s Law. To compound, some tasks still take longer than planned, causing the entire project to be still late! Bottom line: Local commitments only prolong the project plan without significantly increasing on-time delivery.
Management mistake No. 3: Lacking good task-level priorities in execution.
Not knowing which tasks to work on when, resources get pulled in divergent directions. Project managers add to the confusion by pressuring the resources to start working on their project’s tasks without worrying about the impact on other’s project tasks. Rather than helping all projects make progress, assigning resources in this way actually causes all projects to become stalled.

Our experience with more than 200 project-based organizations is that 20 percent to 50 percent of the time and capacity involving projects is wasted due to traditional management practices.
But this can change. Managers no longer need to feel stymied by traditional practices. The Critical Chain method provides new, effective rules of managing project execution. And that will be the topic of our next Execution Management Minute .
As a recipient of the Franz Edelman award and Chief of Staff Team Excellence award for its work with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center, Realization has helped more than 200 organizations throughout the world increase speed and efficiency in new product development; engineer-to-order manufacturing; construction; maintenance, repair and overhaul; and other project-based operations. Learn more now .

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