Project management spends a lot of time on the work that must happen before any project can be executed. Researching the feasibility of the project, planning for its success, scheduling tasks, organizing resources and building a budget are all important.
Then comes the execution phase and often much of a project manager’s attention is focused on monitoring, tracking and reporting on progress and performance. Again, all important aspects of managing a project. But don’t forget about your team. They’re the ones who take the concept and actualize it with the help of good direction and proper work management software.
Getting the most out of your team, making sure they have the necessary resources to match their capacity at a specific point in the project is key to maximizing productivity. To create that optimum workflow structure requires a work management methodology.
What Is Work Management?
Work management is the intersection of business and team processes to structure workflow so that teams work more efficiently. It’s a way to manage your team and the way they work so that you can increase efficiencies.
This can be applied to the scope of the project or the organization of the project’s operations. Either way, the goal is to streamline these processes to better schedule tasks, meet the expectations of stakeholders, manage resources and evaluate performance to further improve productivity.
The cycle of managing work starts with identifying that work, planning and scheduling it, and then executing the work. But it doesn’t end there: follow-up is important. Use analysis to figure out what’s helping and what isn’t.
Related: Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) Guide
Why Is Work Management Important?
The obvious answer is that work management is important just as any managerial method is important: it improves performance. Anything you can do to get your team to deliver quality faster and with less financial investment is going to benefit the project.
Better performance is one of the reasons for work management, which leads to more quality deliverables on time and within budget. But work management also streamlines processes not merely to improve their performance but to reduce any redundancies that are unnecessarily taking up valuable time and money.
That’s why work management is employed by organizations worldwide: it reduces waste. Getting rid of those activities that serve no purpose creates better projects. It’s that simple.
But there’s more an active work management plan produces, such as fostering collaboration on tasks to work better together. Communication is the throughline in all project management processes and so better communications are part of a work management program. It speaks to collaboration, but also clear direction, so things don’t have to be done more than once.
The Elements of Work Management
Work management is about taking many of the different parts of managing a project as they relate to the team and integrating them into a system that boosts productivity. Therefore, work management touches many aspects of project management.
The elements of work management read like the features of a powerful project management tool. They incorporate resource management, collaboration, time and task management, budgeting, reporting and more. In a sense, work management is the hub around which all these spokes turn. If you set it up correctly, you’ll get more out of your teams.
While the details are likely going to be different depending on your organization, they do share some commonalities. To collect these disparate elements into a cohesive whole requires working with the entire project team to get their feedback. Follow these steps.
- Identify: To manage work, you first have to define how, when and in what way that work is done. Be thorough and accurate.
- Plan: Now comes the plan to determine what work must be done. Making a time estimation of how long that work will take and the resources involved.
- Schedule: You have the work planned out and a timeline, now you have to create a schedule, whether daily or weekly, to define workflow and responsibilities.
- Complete: Finalize the steps to your schedule, prioritizing work and incorporating any collaboration that will add to the productivity.
- Document: Always make a paper trail of the process to capture anything learned and the communications involved throughout.
- Analyze: Finally, use the experience and documentation to refine your processes. Work management is a continuously improving system.
Best Practices for Effective Work Management
The secret to a successful work management system is not to have it rigidly defined. It must be a living process that is constantly being reviewed and renewed. Along those lines, keep in mind these tips as you manage your project work.
Opaque systems are hothouses that grow resentment, erode morale and stifle productivity. It’s best to be open with not only your plan but the reasons behind it. Seek feedback, too, and you’ll have a happier, more creative and accountable team due to a building of mutual respect.
Clear communication goes hand-in-glove with transparency. If you’re not communicating well, then you’re putting up unnecessary ways. That information dessert will bloom with rumors and innuendos sure to corrupt your work environment. Good communication builds collaborative and productive teams.
To make sure you’re communications are sound, you can’t just talk; you have to listen. That’s where feedback comes in. Being open to feedback builds trust and retains employees, which leads to greater work productivity. Make everyone feel an integral part of the process and that their opinions are valued.
Together we can do more than alone is a cliché because it stems from a seed of truth. Giving your teams the tools to better collaborate is a driver to greater productivity. It also helps to solidify teams and boost morale, which in turn leads to greater productivity. It’s a win-win.
You can give your team a plan and the tools to work better, but eventually, you have to let them do their job. That takes a great deal of trust on your part because a lot is riding on the results. However, if you want your team to trust you, you have to trust them. They were hired for their skills and experience. Let them work.
We’ve hammered home the concept of improving productivity, so it’s important to understand that people are not machines. Obvious? Yes, but easy to forget as you keep making your targets and then pushing your team further. Doing that without keeping an eye on the work-home balance is a sure recipe for burnout. Burn out your team and who’ll do the work? Lead from the top and set a good example for them to follow.
Things to Avoid When Managing Work
Let’s not leave burnout quite yet. Because it’s really not a best practice as much as it’s a mistake in managing work. There are other missteps you need to be aware of with work management. Let’s quickly run through a few.
One important thing is for the manager to know their team. This is a process like everything else and it takes time, but it can be expedited by ice-breakers or social events outside of work. However you do so, the better you know your team and the better they know you, the more insight you’ll have into managing their work.
When you develop a system for your work management, communicate it clearly. You need to be direct and make sure everyone has their roles and responsibilities defined. Don’t be too rigid or too flexible, find the right balance. But most importantly make sure everyone knows what they’re supposed to do. Confusion leads to a work breakdown.
Another problem is not dealing with issues as they arise in the project. This can be project- or personnel-related. Either way, ignoring the issue will not make it go away. On the contrary, it will fester and grow, often to the point that it disrupts work. Deal with these things swiftly or suffer the consequences.
How ProjectManager.com Helps You Manage Work
ProjectManager.com is an award-winning tool that organizes work to streamline processes and boost productivity. It is packed with the features you need to elevate your project and team to higher levels of efficiency.
Plan your projects collaboratively with our online Gantt chart. Everyone can be part of the process and once you collect all the tasks needed to reach your final deliverable, just add the duration and they populate a project timeline.
Further, control workflow by breaking the larger project into smaller phases. You can customize colors and columns to differentiate the stages of the project and then add milestones that indicate when one phase ends and another begins. This helps you track progress.
Any tasks that are dependent on another task to start or finish can be linked, so there are no bottlenecks slowing down work later in the project. Because our software is cloud-based as changes occur, just drag and drop the task to the new date and every related task is instantly updated.
Instant Updates to Keep Work Moving
Teams get notified of any changes to the plan instantly by email or in-app alerts. Collaboration is fostered because the tool is online. Managers can add direction and attached documents and images directly to the task when assigning and teams can comment no matter where they are or when they’re working. Everyone is on the same page working together in a virtual space.
Managers don’t want to get in the way of their teams, but also need to have transparency in to their work. The team management page lists everyone, their tasks and the percent complete they hare. Use the workload page to see if anyone is not performing because they’re overallocated. Then reallocate to free them up.
Track Progress with Dashboards
Finally, get a high-level view of the project with a real-time dashboard that automatically tracks six project metrics, doing the calculations for you and then displaying the results in colorful graphs and charts. For greater detail use one-click reporting tools to see costs, overall health and project variance.
ProjectManager.com is a cloud-based tool that helps managers and teams work more productively. From planning to monitoring and reporting on progress, you control every aspect of your work throughout the project life cycle. See why it’s the preferred tool of tens of thousands of project teams and take our free 30-day trial today.