Our organization develops multimedia and video programs. As production manager, I am in charge of 3.5 other people (the .5 is the ability to give simple work to another person who does not officially report to me).

Each person manages their own projects, and sometimes is the only person to work on a project. I too manage my own projects and do much of the work on my own projects. However each member of our team is a specialist in one or more skills, so we all contribute to others' projects when needed.

We have bi-weekly meetings with our group, plus the boss and another person who manages the schedules/deadlines.

The main problem is work tends to come in between our bi-weekly meetings, which is either not on the master project list, or is a sub-task of a known project. Whatever the source, the work that comes up delays established deadline, so when the next bi-weekly meeting arises, it looks like no one, myself included, has completed any of the deadlines. We have all, however, been quite busy. In fact much of the work we have all been busy with has been on known projects, just not the deadlines discussed at the last meeting.

Thus we all leave the meetings feeling like we have not accomplished anything, even though we have.

Anyone else feel my pain?


bflynn's picture

Yes. This kind of problem is common in project based organizations. I've seen it in a lot of IT fields. The details are different, but the cause and the answer are the same.

The solution is discipline.

By discipline, I mean that you have to be ready and able to control work. When work comes in between meetings, it prevents your assigned work from getting done. In the IT world, this is called Scope Creep. The scope of your work has expanded and now you don't have enough time to complete it.

All projects operate with a triangle of time-people-features...different people might replace people with money. The point of the triangle is that if you fix two of the items, the third must float to make up the triangle. Try to fix all three and you wind up unable to make a triangle because your sides aren't long enough.

This is the idea of what you're seeing. When you expand the scope (take on more work), you are adding to the features line. Meanwhile, your time and people have stayed the same. You are short and not able to get your work done.

I'm not suggesting that you don't accept new work. However, if you're scheduled to work on X and project Y comes in, higher ups need to be informed of the schedule change prior to the biweekly meeting. Changes are fine and they happen all the time. Depending on the circumstances, you might need a formal change order document or a simple email may suffice. Include the scheduling person on the routing. That way, they're aware of how busy you are and they know before the bi-weekly meeting what didn't get done.

I hope this helps. The problem you're seeing is not unique. Fortunately, the solution is also pretty well proven as well.


PattiBarcroft's picture


We have had many of the same problems in our projects and they have had a serious impact on our work load and our reputation for "not getting things done". From experience, I totally agree with Brian.

Do you use a formalized project management process? If so, adding a change order process which requires "higher ups" approval of the deadline change, the costs and the deliverables will educate everyone to the impact of the choices made and it changes the goal. If you are not using a formalize project management process you may want to consider starting there to help you get your scope and deliverables expectations under control.


smholland10's picture

The issue is not so much one of project management as one of workload management. The work will continue to exceed your available workforce. Before accepting any new work, the job should be priortised on its merits and those merits reviewed against the current workload. The work schedule you have (A simple spreadsheet is all you need if you do not want to go the expense of fully blown tools at least until you have control of the process) needs to be adjusted to cater for this new work and jobs started and completed as scheduled.

You as the team manager/leader need to control the work assignments - this will help to contain the brand impact if the schedule needs to change. This should also help you keep and or manage the expectations of the Sales staff and the customers.

I have a number of tools that I can share - my background is IT&T Project/Program Management and Contracts Negotiation. Let me know and I will load the to my .MAC account.


sklosky's picture


Yes. This happens to most everyone.

I recall an expression about [url=]ripe blackberries[/url] . . . . :)

I have a question for you.

When you build the schedule, do you allocate time for the activities and tasks that are not on the schedule but will require time spent?

If you're not putting these things into the schedule, I believe you and your team are not planning based on the reality of what you know, but rather, some alternate version of reality which doesn't exist.

I like the one on one model because this gives a bucket of time for management / adminstrative items to be put in instead of being interrupt driven.

Perhaps a model like this can be developed for your unscheduled tasks.


erikko's picture

i know your pain because as im in charge of two people in our production team, i can't seem to get by but reading here makes me guided a bit to what will i do how to manage them

PierG's picture

you are not alone!!!!

Google for SCRUM and take some advices about planning, reporting and ... the DEFINITION OF DONE. Very light, very powerful!