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Last week, I wrote a blog on why a resource schedule of availability doesn’t work well in the business world. But executives clearly need a way to measure capacity, which I defined as the bandwidth to take on new initiatives. In this blog, I will offer an alternative approach.

Let’s start with the premise that one major reason for a resource schedule of availability is to determine capacity. Yes, there are more granular uses for the schedule, but at a macro level, we do need to be able to understand the organization’s capacity. 

Create compelling business cases for new project initiatives.  

There really is no substitute for engaging your teams in the work you want them to do for you. If you aren’t excited, why should they be excited? Someone in your C-Suite must create a compelling business case for any new project initiatives. You can’t delegate this job, though you can certainly engage people to help.

Consider how you plan to measure success, or the business value that a particular initiative has. Much has been written about BRM – or Benefits Realization Management. One goal is to set everyone up for success. Select projects with the highest benefits. Realize those benefits through sound project execution. And continue to measure the benefits to ensure the project delivers value over the anticipated term. If you aren’t familiar with BRM, check out the work of Michelle MacAdam of Oak Path Consulting.

When possible, let your project teams vote on your new project alternatives.

Whether or not you want to move to a flatter management structure or a completely holacratic organization, consider drafting compelling business cases on competing ideas and allowing your teams to express their preference. The views of the people in your organization will tell you a lot. Admittedly, if an initiative is required by a regulatory body, you will not be able to say no. But perhaps you can craft the initiative in a more compelling way. There is no substitute for communicating the importance and the why behind what you are doing.

There is no substitute for communicating the importance and the why behind what you are doing. Click To Tweet

Pay attention to the people on your teams and what they are doing.

When people come into work and are happy and engaged, they are more productive. When someone in your organization has just buried their Dad, their brain is probably not firing at 100%. If people seem tired, they probably are. Ask why.

It’s amazing to me how much time I see project managers spending on reports – collecting information on where activities stand and revising the schedule. I think it’s more effective to just watch people, and their engagement levels and then talk to them about what they’re doing. It’s a win-win situation if you do it well. You learn something valuable about what’s going on in your organization, and you build stronger relationships with your employees.

Empower people to look for a better way.

When a project team plans a project, it’s done with the objective of understanding what constitutes success. What outcomes are you looking to achieve? How do you know when you’ve achieved them? How will you measure success? When the team gets into execution, there could be many ways to achieve that goal.

If you’ve spent time building a rigid schedule and plugging people’s availability into it, what happens when your team takes a longer look at the objective and spots a better way to accomplish the objective? I’m pretty sure there is frustration and apathy when finding a better way means the project manager will have to spend hours reworking the plan.

How can you encourage teams to find a better way to accomplish the objective?

When a project, or a single activity, requires a change of heart, expect delays.

When your project is about building software, buildings, or roads, it’s easier to estimate how long something will take, and to come close to that estimate.  People have more experience with that. But when your project, or activities in your project involve changing people’s hearts and minds, look out. Everyone is different. You will change one mind faster than another. So, just be aware of when an activity, a group of activities, or an entire project involves getting people to buy-in to another idea or approach.

Develop metrics that will allow you to assess the past and learn from it.

To assess capacity, we need to find a way to compare projects across the spectrum – from construction to IT, from R&D to legal, from HR to financial services. Something that allows us to compare projects across our portfolio is better than nothing. To build metrics that work, I advocate an idea called complexity. I’ve written before on this subject here.

Complexity is just as it sounds, a measure of how complex an activity or project is.  I suggest that we keep it very simple and give everyone about five or six choices, instead of an unlimited number of choices. We need to know if an activity is a one day, three day, one week, two week, one month, or multi-month activity. Assigning complexity at the activity level (or work package) allows us to aggregate complexity by project, by work-stream, by resource, or by project manager. It won’t be perfect. Nothing is.

Once we have complexity numbers, and cost estimates, we can build metrics that allow us to assess performance, people, teams, projects, customer profitability, and capacity. I will discuss this in more detail next week. Stay tuned and sign up for my newsletter, where I throw in a book review every week.