Leadership

Strategic Laziness: 3 Steps to Success

Busyness is not always a virtue. Here's how to be lazy—with purpose

Written by Jeffery Potvin

Remember the last time your team executed a project flawlessly? You know, when you delivered everything you promised on time, under budget and without errors or compromises?

That hasn’t happened in a while? Or€¦ever?

You’re not alone. Project management is a complex art that even seasoned experts struggle to master. It’s easy to cut a corner here and make a rash decision there.

But maybe this isn’t such a bad thing. In fact, contrary to popular belief, the secret of successful project management is not to do more, or even to be highly organized (though the latter certainly helps). It’s to do less.

The best project managers are strategically lazy. Over time, they learn which activities keep a project on budget and on schedule. All other things simply don’t matter.

Whether you’re managing a project yourself or you’ve delegated the job, you can learn from their selective approach. The following three strategies will ensure you’re covering all the bases that count in facilitating a successful project—without wasting your time.

1. Communicate selectively

Everyone wants to be in the loop—but it’s very easy to over-inform. When you share every tiny detail related to a project with your team, they’ll often get overwhelmed. And when people get overwhelmed, productivity crashes. Distractions sneak in and people stop avoid doing critical tasks in favour of completing easy or quick ones that make them feel at least somewhat productive.

By sending fewer communications, you will actually increase the likelihood that your team members will absorb updates—and the more targeted the messaging to their duties, the more effective.

So, instead of managing the entire team with single, monolithic status meetings or emails, consider using project-management software (or, depending on the sophistication you require, email) to segment your messaging into groups such as internal teams, contractors, clients and executive management. That way you can report only the crucial information related to their specific involvement in the project.

Related: Are you killing your productivity?

2. Welcome end-user feedback—but gather it smartly

Say you’ve completed a development project on an app designed to help delivery drivers track and report their expenses and mileage. Your development team knocked it out of the park. You finished on time, and maybe even under budget.

But few, if any, of the drivers ended up using that app. That’s because it adhered to accounting requirements, but its interface didn’t make sense to the drivers.

Early meetings with end-users—be they internal stakeholders or clients—are extremely important. But it shouldn’t stop there. The most successful project managers solicit feedback throughout the process to ensure the team is on track to deliver something useful.

Companies often avoid end-users mid-project for fear of the project expanding or changing scope.  And reporting and soliciting feedback can be arduous.  They key is to ask for specific feedback—perhaps using targeted questions—and to set clear deadlines for end-users to provide it. By holding fast to your timelines, you’ll receive meaningful information that can shape the end product without derailing the process.

3. Get visibility into exactly what people are doing

Many projects end up costing companies more than expected not just because of budget overruns, but also because of the unaccounted-for time and resources associated with its delivery. Team members might be tracking time against defined tasks in the project plan, but they don’t monitor down-the-rabbit-hole time associated with such tasks as research or brainstorming.

This can greatly skew your total cost. Depending on the granularity of your time tracking processes, perceived ROI and true ROI can be very different. And this can often mean a lot of postmortem investigating on the part of the project managers.

That’s why it’s useful to get those working on the project into the habit of tracking all their activities, whether part of the initial project plan or not.  While workers may initially balk at having to account for their every activity at first—especially if they’ve never had to do so—most come to embrace the practice as a means of helping them better manage their own time, especially if the process is at least partially automated.

The result is that you’ll get ready access to useful insight into the actual time it takes to complete individual elements of the project—data you can use to make the crucial budget- and resource-allocation decisions that really matter.

Jeffery Potvin is the CEO of Hardboot Inc., an outsourced development agency with a team of 150 in Toronto, San Francisco and overseas. In the course of completing more than 400 digital projects, the company developed its own cloud-based project management and collaboration software, which it has now launched as Swyvel.

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com