Tuesday, 15 March 2022

10 rules for improving project productivity

Rule – 1. Work schedule is not a field for politics

More often than not, the importance of carefully timing individual tasks and the project as a whole is greatly underestimated. Projects are given deadlines and schedules that are in no way based on a real understanding of the possibilities of project implementation. Very often, the project schedule is set by managers who have a very approximate idea of what is actually happening solely on the basis of political goals. Probably a hundred times I have met a situation when a project needed to be completed by such and such a time, because the enterprise (or a particular top manager) plans such and such.

The result is natural – conflicts and high staff turnover. Every more or less competent member of the team quickly understands that the project is doomed to failure due to the unreality of the set deadlines. The imposition of unrealistic deadlines and goals, although it demonstrates determination and a "firm hand", but encounters enormous resistance from the collective.

When developing a project schedule and timeline, it is important to devote enough time to highlight the talents, knowledge and skills of the people who will perform the task, which will allow you to predict the cost of completion, the schedule of tasks, quantitative constraints and evaluation techniques for the successful completion of the project. Only then can a real plan be launched that will allow team members to strain, but not to break.

Rule – 2. Stopping the project is tantamount to his death.

Many projects stop for the same reason that a military squad that has come under sniper fire stops: everyone is pressed to the ground and afraid to move. No one dares to raise their head to determine the direction of the fire. On the other hand, if you continue to lie facing the ground, the situation will only get worse. It is necessary either to move forward, or to retreat one of the possible ways. The lack of retaliation puts the secession at a much greater blow.

Unfortunately, we must admit that most project managers, once in a difficult situation, behave exactly like this: they do not do anything. The result is devastating: employees get annoyed, the team loses their effectiveness, indecision and downtime destroy faith in the project. Moreover, due to the fact that people tend to look for meaning in what they do, team members concentrate on moments that are irrelevant or insignificant moments of the project are inflated to significant ones.

This applies not only to members of the project team, but also to its managers: in such a situation, many project managers begin to go to extremes. Instead of thinking carefully about what is most important, focusing on the goals of the project, revising priorities and moving forward in search of a solution, they begin to think that everything is becoming very important. At the same time, it is somehow forgotten that if all tasks become equally important, the direction of movement is lost. And the right decision can only be made by focusing on the goals of the project, while analyzing how this situation will affect the ultimate goal.

Rule – 3. To hit the target , you need to see it

It is enough to lose sight of the goal of the project, when you have to rake up a bunch of small parts that pile up every day. When fighting an alligator, it's easy to forget that the original goal was to dry out the swamp. Project managers are so drawn into solving short-term problems that they lose sight of the overall plan and goals of the project. This imperceptibly leads to a very deplorable result: the performance of various tasks is not related to the main goal. Employees begin to respond to short-term needs, rather than actively pushing the project forward, and also lose their sense of what is important to the project and what is not. The importance of each specific effort on a project is assessed by the degree to which it helps to achieve the final goal. 


The project manager needs to constantly ask himself about the actions performed by the team – whether this brings the fulfillment of the project goals closer or not. It is also necessary to establish an indicator for measuring the progress of the project, while bearing in mind that only indicators that measure the achievement of project objectives and are able to assess the importance of current work in this light can be considered progressive.

Rule – 4. Standardization promotes non-standard solutions

A standard set of tools and procedures helps effective progress. However, for some reason, project managers stubbornly do not want to follow standard processes and methods? They fear that such following will limit creativity. As a result, it often happens that the project manager eventually finds himself entangled in a terrible cross-section of procedures, management tools and techniques that require considerable effort to combine them with each other. This only hinders the progress of the project.

Contrary to popular belief, standard procedures promote creativity, not hinder it. Standard procedures provide a clear understanding of the objectives of a given project, as well as specific tools and techniques for completing tasks. This approach reduces the amount of information that needs to be digested to cope with the task. 


Standardization contributes, firstly, to the effective logically consistent implementation of the project. Secondly, better integration of activity due to the fact that project participants see the interdependence of their work with the work of other project participants. Managers will be able to work more autonomously, understanding the standards to be followed during decision-making. Conversely, when there are no standards, employees will encounter various obstacles, finding them simply out of the blue.

Thirdly, the coefficient of alterations is reduced, due to the fact that standardization greatly facilitates the possibility of using the achievements of previous projects, improves communication due to the fact that all team members play by common rules.

Rule – 5. Reuse work results

While creativity is important and necessary, it unfortunately often leads to the invention of the wheel. Problems with "inventions" are associated with the fact that they take a lot of time and effort, the overall speed of the project is reduced. In addition, this also means the lack of competent work with the experience of previous projects, which ultimately increases the timing of the project.

Reuse of the achievements of other projects makes it possible to concentrate on the specifics of the project. Certain schedules from similar projects, report formats, and forms can be reused to manage projects. On the technical side, codes, specifications, templates, and so on can be reused. Reuse needs to be made part of the project culture. 

The project manager needs to learn how to identify what can be reused. As a rule, such an understanding comes as a result of studying the history of project implementation and documentation of previous projects.

Rule – 6. Study historical science

Only a few learn from examples of the past. But history is characterized by repetition, it is not too big of a fictional person. Many IT projects are so similar that it seems that nothing changes at all. It is crucial to acquire the ability to see a new project in the light of previous experience, for which it is necessary to analyze the new project step by step for similarities in problems and differences, as well as to determine which of the previous methods of working with projects applies to this new project, what does not. Once similar projects of the past have been identified, the right step is to organize a series of interviews with participants of past projects, study audit reports, etc.

Rule – 7. There should be a piece of paper for everything

This old formula is usually associated with bureaucracy. However, in project management, a reasonable bureaucracy is simply necessary. In most projects, team members do a tremendous amount of work, unfortunately, often efforts do not have time to be documented, knowledge and expert assessments are gradually lost. Make no mistake – this is a big loss for the company. Documenting decisions, assessments, and other information is a huge advantage. The quality of work on a project increases if there are clear records of what was done, how, and why. The availability of such documentation allows in the future to focus on the specifics of the projects, and not to focus on solving standard, already arisen problems.

Situations and decisions on projects are usually not documented, because the solution gives an immediate result, and employees do not see the reasons for the additional administrative burden. And even where this documentation is underway, important information is often lost in the overall flow of project documentation. In order to change the state of affairs, it is necessary to introduce the creation of documentation into the category of necessary actions, as well as to create a common format for such documentation before the start of the project.

Rule – 8. You need to learn to communicate

Most projects fail due to communication problems. Although everyone understands the importance of good communication to achieve success, however, communication on the project is still in a deplorable state. One reason is that people confuse the means of communication and communication as such. A communication tool is just a tool. Surrounded by e-mail, video conferencing and the Internet, many believe that they are well connected, but it must be understood that the means of communication is not communication.

Another reason for poor communication is that team members have a poor understanding of the difference between data and information. The data is raw, the information is data that is processed and carries some meaning relevant to the case. Very often, team members confuse these two types of data, thereby making communication difficult and taking away valuable project time. Finally, the third problem is the relevance of information on the project. 


One of the most common problems is that the incoming information is outdated. Not so long ago, I happened to see a special site created for normal communication of the project team, the information on which was not updated for three months (the project was for a period of one year). The information on such a site should correspond to the current state of the project, the maximum delay should not exceed one or two days.

Although it sounds trite, but I will have to repeat: the right communication ensures the flow of the right information at the right time in the right proportion and to those who need it. When communication is delivered in this way, the command "enters the information resonance". As a result, team members are better able to adapt to the decisions that are made on the project.

Rule – 9. Without motivation, a project is a process

Without the motivation of project team members, key managers there is no project. Without this, it turns into an endless, unfinished process. In the absence of interest of project participants, problems begin at the very beginning - when estimating the time to complete certain tasks. In this case, the estimates are usually unrealistic and based on some incomprehensible assumptions. The minimum necessary way to motivate the project team is to receive bonuses based on the results of each stage of the project. But there are more effective means. 

For example, 

the transfer of key managers of the project team to personal contracts with a significant (two or more times) increase in salary. In order to work out the level of commitment of the manager, the project manager needs to conduct an "inventory" of his knowledge, expert areas, experience and diligence. Such a technique is highly recommended due to the fact that the signing of such an instrument makes it difficult to deny the obligations undertaken.

The most powerful means of motivation in project management is to make project participants co-owners. Mandatory purchase by members of the project team of shares of this project creates the highest possible degree of responsibility and reliability. In turn, project management is facilitated. It doesn't take much effort to track tasks. In addition, such an approach to the project greatly increases the initiative of the participants. Unfortunately, this approach doesn't apply to most projects (but gives a great level of comparison to how it should ideally be).

Finally, another tip – the project manager should measure not only the ability to perform a certain task, but also enthusiasm. Sometimes a member of the project team has sufficient experience and relevant skills, but there is no necessary elation and desire to work on the project.

Rule – 10. The most correct solutions are simple

There's always a tendency to complicate things as much as possible. Something needs to be "cleaned up" there, something needs to be slightly tweaked here? Before anyone has time to understand something, the result is completely opposite to what was expected. All projects tend to become more complex, but a good project outcome is usually simple. Simplicity is characteristic of the shortest path.

The symptoms of complexity or simplicity are quite obvious. For example, many members of the project team require additions, changes, overrides, alterations, so that the plan becomes full of exceptions in additional unforeseen circumstances. Another symptom of complexity is that the project manager constantly has to explain the meaning of the various parts of the project.

By contrast, simplicity gives clarity of thought, demonstrating clarity of understanding the direction of movement. It also requires less time and resources to execute the plan and gives more confidence because the goals and objectives are clear and understandable what needs to be done to achieve it. In order for the simplicity of the solution to become possible, team members must have as much experience as possible. Wisdom comes only with experience.

For the most part, IT projects rarely apply even a few of the principles outlined above. Most often, the team moves forward trying to solve the problem in complex ways, which are usually a re-invention of solutions that have already been found in one of the previous projects, then, see the text of the beginning of the article. 


If the problem remains unresolved, the work freezes and everyone expects that the problem will somehow be resolved, while dealing with other less important problems. Execution schedules start to float, budgets are overspent, quality drops. Even if half of what was said here is introduced into the IT project, its productivity will increase. But, as experience shows, the real problem is to get the UM and project members to accept these recommendations.

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