Half a project manager, one project
A while ago I wrote a post entitled, Two project managers, one project, in which I offered some suggestions to those who share project management responsibilities with one or more colleagues. In the present post I’d like to discuss the opposite situation – one where a project is managed by someone who has to juggle project management responsibilities with their regular job. It’s pretty obvious that this is a recipe for failure (of the project), burnout (of the project manager) or both. Nonetheless, this situation isn’t uncommon and, given the ever-increasing resource constraints that organisations are subject to, I suspect it will only become more common. Hence the motivation for this post in which I offer the part-time project manager some tips on dealing with this predicament.
My first tip is to refuse to do it. Having said that, I realise that in most cases refusal isn’t an option, and may even be a career-limiting move. So, here are some other suggestions that may help deal with the issue head-on:
- Get someone to help with your regular job: Look into the possibility of off-loading some of your regular job duties to your co-workers. The first step is to get your co-worker’s consent. One way to get buy-in is to ensure that the work you’re handing over is meaningful for the other person. Consider giving away something that will be interesting and perhaps also useful from skill / knowledge development perspective. Next, you’ll need to get approval from management. When speaking higher-ups, be sure to emphasise the importance of freeing up your time to focus on the project. Some say one should speak to management first – I disagree. It is important to get buy-in from the “off-loadee” before approaching management about doing any off-loading.
- Find another part-timer to share project management duties with: If you can’t find anyone to do your regular job (or a part of it), you may have more luck getting someone to share project management duties with you. Here too, you would want to get the person’s OK before talking to management. Obviously it will also be necessary to get buy-in from management, but that shouldn’t be too hard if your project is important from the organisation’s perspective.
- Smart multitasking: OK, if you fail to get help – either with your regular job or with managing the project – you’re stuck with doing the project on your own. In this case, it is inevitable that you will have to multitask. Check out this post for some tips on how to multitask effectively.
- Know your limits: Despite your best efforts, it may become apparent that the project is suffering from the lack of a full-time project manager. In this case it is important to appraise management of the situation as soon as possible. You’re not doing anyone any favours by indulging in heroic efforts that may lead to burnout, so be sure that management understands the problems you’re having. The decision on whether to help or not is up to the folks upstairs, but they must know the full story to make an informed decision. If they decide not to help, at least it isn’t because they didn’t know.
After reading the above, you’re probably thinking that the suggestions I’ve made are pretty lame – they’re either impractical or won’t help much at all. You’re absolutely right! The truth is, a half-a-project-manager scenario is a bad one for both the project and the project manager. The best way to deal with it is not to sign up in the first place. So I return to my first tip – when asked to do it, just say no.