Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Back to work and under pressure

There is a real ‘back to work/rushed off our feet’ buzz at Maven this week so we are trying to work smarter to fit everything in. One technique is to move as much as possible into ‘housekeeping mode’ i.e. turn tasks into regular actions that are carried out in the same way every time. The reason for this is that I want to reduce the time we take to do simple tasks so that we free up more time to be creative – to dream up new products and services, to spend more time with our clients and to look towards the future.

This approach is backed up by psychological research which explains that once we have learnt how to perform a task, our brains need less conscious thought (short term memory, which has limited capacity) to carry it out, and if we do it enough times it will move the task into our subconscious (long term memory, with lots of spare capacity).

This means that our conscious mind can spend time on more worthwhile tasks such as paying attention to what we are doing, focusing on a task, having new thoughts that lead to new ideas, learning new skills and being more innovative about how we approach things.

Although projects are all about doing new things and therefore, using lots of our conscious mind, we can make project management easier by transferring as many project tasks as possible into regular activities carried out by our subconscious. For example, logging, analysing and reporting on risks, issues and change requests, producing progress reports, sending out information to stakeholders.

By carrying out these basic tasks regularly we free up more time to spend identifying new ways of working that overcome the risks, or incorporate the requests for change. We can spend more time engaging with stakeholders, addressing their concerns and helping them to champion the project.

I believe that the methodologies offered by the Office of Government Commerce (PRINCE2; MSP; MoR; MoP; ITIL) are so effective because at their core they try to regularize as many project, programme and portfolio tasks as possible.

The methodologies set out what documents to use, in what order tasks should be carried out and which roles should perform them. This leaves managers with plenty of capacity to fully engage with their projects and programmes, managing them actively, rather than having to use their conscious brain to decide how to do basic tasks when they should be working at a higher level of creativity.

Get to know these methodologies (http://www.maventraining.co.uk/quick-guides/) to simplify your management tasks and give you the freedom to be innovative about how you tackle more challenging activities.

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