Monday, August 6, 2007

August 6, 2007 – Time to take it Easy

Here in the sunny southern California my daughters have passed the mid point of their summer holidays. July and August seem to fly by faster than any other months of the year. Last summer I missed most of that time because I was working out of town, flying back and forth just to spend the weekend at home. That summer window of opportunity of spontaneous fun freedom slipped by with me out of town.

I have been working with a team to create a chapter for the second edition of the PMI Standard for Program Management. The father of one of the women on the team is suffering from dementia. His once brilliant mind is failing and the time to spend with her once strong and encouraging dad is slipping away.

The collapse of a major bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota ended the lives of people who thought they were just running to or from work.

What’s my point? It is two fold. First, make sure you take time for yourself. Second, make sure your team does, too.

Be Good to Yourself
Those 60-80 hour weeks, 52 weeks a year are going to kill you eventually but they are taking you away from enjoying your life now. I’m not suggesting you quit your job and convince your family to join a circus. However, if your family calls you “Uncle Daddy” because they see their Canadian cousins more often than they see you there might be a problem.

Recognizing that my travel was detrimental to my family life, I opted to pull back from an exciting PM role to take one closer to home that lacked the challenge.

Delegation is another great way to drop a few hours from your schedule. Find items from your to do list that you really don’t have to do and share the effort with your team. One quick hit for this is team meeting minutes. If everyone on the team takes a turn publishing the minutes you shave at least a half hour from your schedule each week.

Sometimes cutting back isn’t possible. In order to add a little balance to the family / work equation, I do bring work home. I know, it sounds counter productive, but it works. I’m home, usually in time to have dinner with my family and spend a couple hours with them. Once the kids head to bed I pull out the work and put in another couple of hours. It is a great time to do minutes or review documentation. Fortunately I can operate on a limited amount of sleep for several days in a row.

Take Care of Your Team
Burn out is a real possibility for your resources, especially if they try to drive themselves as hard as you do yourself. Here are a couple of items to keep in mind that may help maintain some sanity in the work place.

1. Set realistic dates. Nothing kills the enthusiasm in a team faster than working from behind right from the beginning. It’s acceptable to agree to aggressive dates, but build in a little reality, too.
2. Don’t overdue the overtime. Scheduling everyone to work overtime from the start of the project in order to meet the deadlines will not work. Overtime only works for limited time frames and then only when the team sees the purpose and benefit of doing it. Get their buy in before assigning it. You may be better off obtaining more resources and dividing the work up further.
3. Understand timing on family events. Encourage your team to honor their family commitments. Ask when the big soccer game is or the piano recital and make sure they can make it. It will build your referent authority (see Referent Authority entry) and keep them safe at home.
4. Encourage time off. Many people I work with seem unable to use their vacation time. They keep busy through the year and never get around to it. The theory behind taking time off is to come back refocused. Another great idea is compensation (“comp”) time. When your team has to work the weekend to implement a system give them the opportunity to take that time off just before or just after the event. It is better not to let the time stack up unused because it becomes a pain to track and if the situation changes (ex. project ends) they might loose out on it.
5. Be flexible with time management. Most projects have deadlines, not office hours. If you can be flexible in the work hours your team may be more productive. Granted, there needs to be overlapping time to handle interfaces and discussions, but a flex-schedule adds to the well-being of your resources.
6. Recognize the extra effort. Don’t take the overtime and hard work for granted. Reward the team from time to time. Suggestions include restaurant gift cards or movie passes. Pick things that encourage them to connect with others outside of work and gain a little balance. I know it is appreciated because when it happens for me my wife usually says, “It’s about time they did something for you.”

If you have other ways you use to keep yourself and your team sane drop me a comment and share it with all of us.

No comments: