Using Internal Resources to Implement Projects

An organization can use its internal resources to implement new projects even if its internal resources are not subject matter experts (or SMEs). Here’s how: have your staff work alongside SMEs to learn how to implement projects in one or more pilot sites. By working alongside SMEs, staff is exposed to detailed implementation procedures which procedures they can apply to other sites as implementation progresses. This sounds simple and it is, but there are a few considerations for using this approach.

  1. Ensure that staff working with SMEs have the delegated authority and responsibility for this aspect of the program when implementation is completed. For instance, it would not make economic or strategic sense to assign one staff to work with the SME and then assign a different staff member to manage the program after implementation if the assigned staff has no expertise in the program area (and if they do have expertise, then they should have been assigned to work with the SME in the first place!).
  2. Staff working with SMEs must be given the necessary to work on the project. This means that work normally done by staff will need to be covered off by other staff. Those working with SMEs need to feel confident and not pressured that they are expected to perform dual roles during the project.
  3. Fair compensation must be paid to staff working with SMEs. This may require a review and revision of existing job descriptions.
  4. Selected staff must not be “voluntold” to work on the project. It is much better to recruit staff that are interested and possess some skill in the program that is being implemented. If staff is interested in the program, they will be amenable to learning new skills that will carry forward to program maintenance after the project is completed.
  5. Don’t assume that once the pilot project is completed that staff who worked alongside the SME are now experts in the subject matter if they
    weren’t experts to begin with. They will still need support and guidance from the SME and the organization as they continue to learn how to manage the program.

During implementation, issues will arise that will require input from not only the project manager and project team members, but from staff within areas where implementation is occurring. By being involved early on, staff gradually learn about the program and will be more comfortable and knowledgeable about its application when the project is complete. It makes long-term strategic and economic sense to involve staff during implementation of projects even if they are not experts in the subject matter.

Taming the Workaholic

Hi. My name is Mary and I used to be a workaholic.

Ever since I can remember, I would spend endless hours “doing.” First it was school projects, then work projects for my employer, and then in the 1980s when I started my own business, I spent endless hours working in, on, and for my business. And somewhere in between, I also spent countless hours volunteering for various associations, this on top of my already full work and family schedules. Why am I telling you this? Because along the way, I learned from experience and research that being a workaholic is not only counterproductive, but it can ultimately kill you or, at the very least, make you very tired and maybe even very sick. Here’s what else I learned.

Working more than 35 to 40 hours a week does not contribute proportionally to your productivity. In fact, studies have shown that industrial workers that worked eight-hour days produced the same amount of widgets as those that worked 10-hour days. However, occasional overtime can yield results, but the gains won’t be directly proportional to the time worked. For example, if the work week is extended by 50 percent, say from 40 to 60 hours, there would only be a 25-30 percent increase in productivity. This is because people typically do their best work between hours two and six of an eight-hour work day. After that, fatigue may affect productivity. In addition, if overtime is sustained over a long period of time, fewer productivity will result because of sustained mental exhaustion.

It turns out that factory workers may be able to turn out a fairly productive eight-hour day; whereas, knowledge workers are not as productive. Productivity for knowledge workers maxes out at about six hours a day (not eight). On top of this, research by the US military has shown that cognitive decline is equivalent to a .10 blood alcohol level with even just one hour less sleep per night. What this means is that if you’re not getting enough sleep, regardless if you’re a factory or knowledge worker, you may be making the same quality decisions as a person who is inebriated. Think about that the next time you show up for a full day’s work when you didn’t get quality sleep the night before.

Workaholics be aware: you are doing yourself and your organization a disservice. You will be far more productive sticking to a 35-to-40 hour work week. If you’re having difficulty adjusting down, speak to a coach or therapist and get back on track to getting your life back. You’ll be glad you did.

 

 

Procrastination

Do you think that those who procrastinate are productive?

The instinctive answer would be “no,” because you think back to that one time when you had that one boss or that one colleague who, despite your best efforts to have them complete a task that you were waiting on, they just didn’t meet your schedule. But does this really mean that they weren’t productive? Or did they even hinder your productivity? Let’s think about this for a moment by first considering the meaning of procrastination.

Procrastination means “to put off or defer until a later time.” There are several reasons why one would defer an action.

This includes anxiety about completing the task (fear of failure, perfectionism), uncertainty about a task (how do I do it? what’s the outcome of the completed task?), unattractiveness of a task (it’s boring work, I don’t like it), low priority of the task (for them, but perhaps not for you!), etc. If the deferred action is done with the knowledge that the delay will cause the procrastinator (or organization) to be worse off because of the delay, then procrastination is definitely counterproductive.

While it may be necessary in some instances (e.g., to thoroughly review important information before making an important decision or writing a critical report), by its nature, procrastination can create unnecessary stress and reduce productivity for everyone affected (remember that one boss or colleague that was holding up your work on that one task?).

There are many ways to overcome procrastination, but here are my best anti-procrastination techniques that I use (and let’s face it, we all procrastinate sometimes – whether or not it’s counterproductive!):

  1. Use project management principles. When you have to complete a task, first determine the deadline. Second, determine the steps needed to complete the task by breaking the task down into its component parts (i.e., chunks of actions that need to be completed as part of the overall task). Third, determine how long each part/chunk will take to complete. Fourth, working backwards from the deadline, schedule sufficient time within your calendar for each chunk. You now have your absolute latest starting date for the task. Fifth, get started as scheduled! If you need help with this, the Project Management Institute website is a good resource.
  2. Stop worrying about what “might” happen. Worry only about what you know will happen. “Worriers” are highly creative and typically high functioning people (to worry about what “might” happen, you really have to have a good imagination!), but if you worry without basis for the worry, then the anxiety created by worrying will kill your productivity. Instead, channel your worry into conducting a risk assessment for your task/project. This will make you more productive and ensure your task is done on time and with minimal stress and worry.
  3. When you develop your schedule for your task/project, stick to it. If you find yourself meandering, try meditation or yoga to re-energize and bring your thoughts and energy back to the project. No one is capable of working on a task for hours on end without an energy or creativity break. Check out this video on how to meditate.

Next time when you think about procrastinating, try the above three techniques to make you more productive, creative, and energized.