If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late.

In business, the phrase time is money is extremely accurate. Project Managers (PMs) want projects to be of high quality and completed as quickly as possible. Oftentimes, project deadlines are extended and over budget. If time is so valuable in the world of business, why do projects continue to come in late and over budget? The brightest project managers would have trouble answering this question. To counteract this phenomenon, project managers can reduce the amount of time allocated to a project by efficiently utilizing their time.

The text and slides from our course says that project deadlines or critical dates are put into place for several reasons, including but not limited to time-to-market pressures, unforeseen delays, overhead costs, and incentive contracts. Unfortunately, these dates often lead to rushed, low-quality deliverables, produced to obtain bonuses. Every project manager wants to be able to complete a project with high-quality deliverables and move on to the next opportunity. The difficulty arises when project managers are required to present high-quality work with less time. Although the aforementioned concept can come across as unfathomable, it is not. There are techniques that project managers can utilize to reduce a project’s duration. First, a PMs can implement a process known as fast-tracking. Fast tracking is simply working on aspects that are along the critical path as opposed to working on overlapping activities in sequential steps. However, this process can increase cost and is quite risky. Another technique PMs can use is project crashing. This is pouring more resources into the tasks along the critical path. Once again, this process is costly and risky. Lastly, PMs can look for alternative methods such as reducing the scope or increasing staffing to finalize deliverables.

While the aforementioned techniques are effective, they are also costly. Risk averse organizations may want to consider implementing these steps:

  1. Monitoring how people are utilizing their time and removing waste.
    1. PMS should monitor how teams are progressing compared to the developed schedule and determine how staffing is utilizing non-project hours.
  2. Develop a schedule and timeline with purposeful meetings built-in.
    1. Often project teams have meetings that are not useful. Meetings should take place when needed. PMs should also make sure all parties are mentally engaged and actively participating in meeting,
  3. PMs should understand how their staff achieves at their highest level.
    1. Some teams need constant support and contact. While others simply need to be told what to do and they can fulfill the obligation
  4. Focus on the project
    1. Projects are drawn out because teams are gathering and not discussing, focusing or even working on the actual project this is a huge waste of company resources. When teams are together the phones, emails and IMs are set aside. Everyone’s focus should be completing the product

Project time reduction is difficult, but with a plan and exceptional time management skills, it can be done. What experiences have you had with attempting to beat a project deadline or simply trying to meet one?




4 thoughts on “If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late.

  1. I really enjoyed reading this post Brandon, thank you. I have seen successful project managers do many of these throughout my career with varying degrees of implementation and thus sucess. I see projects run into and past deadlines at my company at times. Being an engaged PM and utilizing these techniques is important in intercepting time delays as the project is underway. One other thing that I would like to point out is what happens on the front end of projects. Setting realistic expectations is important during the estimating phase and planning phases. Sales can oftentimes try and create unrealistic too aggressive goals, so we must make sure that project timelines are obtainable before starting projects.

  2. Brandon, thank you for sharing this blog post. It happens to be extremely relevant to my current workplace.

    In regards to your first bullet point, my workplace participated in a Kaizen event last week. This was in attempt to reduce the amount of waste in our scheduling plan. All of the managers met for one week where they discussed the current waste that existed in each department in relation to scheduling. One of the changes that stemmed from the Kaizen event was giving only three managers the approval to label an order as “hot.” Before the Kaizen event, an order would be processed as “hot” according to any employee that brought the order to the department. An order is now labeled as “hot” with a red folder. This signals to the Procurement Specialists that everything should be dropped work on that “hot” order. In assigning only three specific “hot” order approvers, the waste within the department is reduced. There are not as many urgent orders that are assigned and out-of-process. There are also fewer expedite costs that spent on urgent orders because there are fewer urgent orders. This reduces not only the time spent on orders, but also the amount of money spent on orders. This is one way that my current workplace has monitored how employees are utilizing their time and removing waste.

  3. So happy to read this post as I think I am about to take on the role of PM for one of the biggest projects of my career. Typically, this is not something I would work on as most of the implementation projects don’t involve my department. But the implementation of a new CRM involves client service & marketing in almost every way. If I am offered this assignment, your post with the techniques and the article links will surely be a resource for me as I look to oversee the project to completion. Right now we need to focus on Time and Quality for the “pick two, any two” but I fully believe Cost will very shortly work its way into the priority matrix soon enough.

  4. This post is spot on! In today’s world of business, it seems that every project is of high importance and needs to be completed promptly with a high level of quality. Although it may be next to impossible to complete every task while meeting both desired goals, PMs must spend their energy in a useful manner in order to be maximally productive. The concept of eliminating waste (i.e. unproductive meetings, unrelated discussions, misallocation of skill sets, etc.) is essential in trying to balance the workload associated with projects. Any amount of time spent on frivolous topics simply takes away from the focus of what matters. Though the idea of only focusing on the task at hand makes complete sense, the reality is that company employees are human. As people, we tend to want to talk about things unrelated to work even while on the job. This form of waste is ubiquitous in the workplace and seemingly unavoidable. But the key to effective project management – as it pertains to productivity and time management – is to minimize the waste. PMs must expect some level of wasteful time and energy but a good leader should be able to refocus his/her team’s energy toward what is important.

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