The standard project management methodology is an excellent means for a project manager to manage a single project. However in todayâ€™s rapidly changing workplace the luxury of being involved in only one project is the exception rather than the rule.
Most workplaces are characterised by many people doing many projects and tasks concurrently. Everyone contributing to projects and tasks need to be able to coordinate their contributions to achieve personal, team and organisational success.
This paper describes a new paradigm for distributed management that facilitates project management through innovative team methods. In contrast to standard project management that is centralised around the project manager, the method is distributed between all team members. A software tool, TASKey TEAM, facilitats coordination between people, plus provides key decision-makers with progress reporting in real-time.
This paper outlines a distributed management method to coordinate many individuals and teams doing many projects and tasks. The TASKey distributed management method offers a new paradigm that facilitates the coordination required for success in most workplace situations.
The TASKey method creates a dynamic framework of project and task work breakdown structures to link coalface actions to what needs to be done. Within this framework, a unique team management method is applied across all the projects and tasks to dynamically coordinate the actions required to successfully achieve specified outputs.
Even though the team coordination method is relatively simple, it requires software to track and maintain the complex set of dynamic relationships common in most workplaces.
The Operating Environment
Common features of our current working environment are:
- Rapid change
- Flatter more organic organisational structures with less people
- Focus on outputs and outcomes
- Greater connectivity and access to more information
- Little improvement in our ability to coordinate individual, team and organisational tasks
In every workplace, there are two main types of work that need to be addressed and integrated:
- value adding work that directly produces outcomes and outputs, and
- enabling work (such as administration, training, facilities) that provides the environment for effective value adding work to proceed.
Distributed management is a method that recognises the fundamental requirement and importance of integrating both value adding work and enabling work. Value adding work is often represented by projects made up of teams from people across a range of enabling functions. The graphic below depicts the type of relationships that exist in many organisations.
The work environment is usually subjected to constant change as new tasks and projects are added or the requirements for existing tasks and projects change. Even in a small team, the dynamic relationships between individuals, other teams, tasks, and projects create considerable complexity.
The Individual Is Central
Each individual is directly involved in many teams and indirectly involved in many other teams. To make sense of their situation, each individual looks at their contribution to each team and then tries to manage their time to do what they need to do. If they have insufficient time, they need to prioritise their work by some criteria, so the value for their effort is maximised.
An individualâ€™s perspective shows many team orbits around an individual. Teams would include work, family, sports, recreation, etc.
This diagram shows only four orbits, but most people would be involved in many more team orbits.
Even though the complexity caused by an individualâ€™s team orbits can be significant, it is relatively simple when compared to interlocking teams. Generally teams are defined in terms of both task (team purpose) and people involved (team members).
A simple example of interlocking teams where some team members are involved in one or two other teams is shown.
The real world is considerably more complex than this diagram. It is a three-dimensional web of task and team relationships.
The Effects Of Change
The complexity of interlocking team orbits is further complicated by changes in tasks and team membership. In other words, we are faced with managing a three dimensional web of relationships that has a fourth dimension of changing over time.
Managing Multiple Dimensions
Effective coordination requires the dynamic integration of key elements of:
- project management,
- task management,
- team management, and
- individuals doing actions to complete tasks.
Projects and tasks cannot be effectively coordinated unless the teams and individuals doing the work are coordinated. Both task centred (project and task focus) and the people centred (individual and team focus) must be applied in concert.
Project Management as a Coordinative Solution
The standard project management methodology is an excellent means for a project manager to manage a single project from a task/activity focus. However in todayâ€™s rapidly changing workplace the luxury of being involved in only one project is the exception rather than the rule. Many managers have tried to use project management to coordinate many projects, tasks and teams with little success.
Project management can be an excellent method for managing a number of projects at an aggregated level, but it is generally unworkable when applied to the coordinating the work of many individuals and teams. Its main limitations are:
- Team management features are not included.
- There is no means to present a view of many projects, tasks and teams from each individualâ€™s perspective (filtering on individuals does not show the context of tasks).
- It stays at a task or activity level, yet individuals work at an action/To Do level.
- Dynamic consolidated To Do lists of the actions required by an individual for all the projects and tasks they are involved in, cannot be generated.
- Progress reporting in terms of % complete can be difficult to interpret when the level of effort on a task/activity varies (which is the case for most workplace activities).
Integrated Top To Bottom And Back Coordination
To maximise value for effort, all effort needs to contribute in a coordinated way to organisation outputs and outcomes. Relationships between top-level outputs and outcomes and projects and tasks can be established using a project management type work breakdown structure.
Tasks need to be further broken down into the actions/to do's that need to be done to complete a task. This last breakdown provides the critical link between what an individual is actually doing (via tasks and projects) to organisational outputs and finally outcomes.
Team Management â€“ People Relationships Approach
While the work breakdown structure is essential to maintain linkages between high level outputs and the actions people are actually doing, it doesnâ€™t present the information in a user-friendly form. People naturally work individually or with others (in teams) to do tasks. Consequently for key information to be readily usable, it needs to be presented from the perspective of each individual and include key information about all the teams they are involved in (both formal and informal).
Basing the presentation of the work breakdown structure on what an individual is doing (both individually and as a team member), allows an individual to focus on what they need to do to contribute to relevant projects and tasks. It also makes time management significantly easier because a comprehensive list of actions required to support all projects and tasks can be generated.
Distributed Management Solution
A Distributed Management solution needs to help everyone to coordinate his or her projects, plus enabling and routine tasks in a dynamic team environment.
The graphic on the right shows the different types of projects and tasks, an individual could be involved in a modern workplace. Partial solutions will lack credibility because there will be too many exceptions that are not addressed.
A team is created as soon as two individuals work on one project or task. Unless this team is coordinated in the context of everything else being done, effort will be wasted.
Distributed Management Software Tools
Software tools to consistently and easily apply TASKey Distributed Management methods are discussed.
The TASKey Distributed Management method and software tools provide a practical solution to coordinating many people doing many projects and tasks. The work breakdown structure to an action level clearly shows what needs to be done, and the complementary team methods coordinate the work (across all projects and tasks) in a way that is relatively simple and matches the way people naturally work.
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