All team members must make—and meet—commitments to keep a project on track. However, it’s the project manager’s job to foster the conditions that will allow the team to deliver on its commitments.
Here are three tips to help you protect team members’ time — and ensure they’ll have the bandwidth to keep their promises.
1. Trust your team.
It can be tempting to ignore team members when they warn that there’s too much work to be done in a given amount of time. You may think they should simply push through. But if the project manager doesn’t commit to realistic deliverables—and find backup when necessary—problems just compound.
Take agile teams. It they commit to more work in a sprint than they feel they can complete, it will only make matters worse when unfinished work passes on to the next sprint. But if they commit to less work and get it all done, you might be surprised to find additional work added to the sprint, since the team is performing better than planned.
2. Clarify requirements and objectives.
A team can easily lose time trying to get up to speed. As a project manager, you can reduce confusion and delays by reviewing requirements and answering questions at the outset.
For example, if you’re working on a project with wireframes or designs, you may ask a team member to complete a simple task, like display the product page.
The team member that commits to this could then deliver half of what you expected simply because he or she didn’t have the full picture. Perhaps he or she thought only the desktop version of the page was needed and didn’t bother with the responsive design as you had expected. If you review instructions before work starts, you’ll have the opportunity to catch these types of discrepancies.
3. Protect their priorities.
If team members are constantly interrupted, their efficiency drops. You can help them focus in a few different ways:
- Avoid ad-hoc status requests. Plan status meetings (i.e. daily scrums) or ask the team to reach out to you when they need something instead of you interrupting them to ask what they need.
- Insulate them from changes. Changes are to be expected in projects — and it’s your job to deal with them so the team can remain focused on their work.
- Be the shield. If another stakeholder — for example, a senior manager — interrupts the team with questions or requests, insist he or she go through you to obtain
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