People are often called "human resources", but they are not robots and treating them like an inanimate resource underestimates the risk they pose to a project. These free-thinking, emotional, unpredictable human resources are, above all, different from each other. Rules of thumb when creating estimates about people's productivity include the following:

e People will not be 100% productive. The results of a recent survey were summarised as follows:

Flirting, gossiping and e-mailing friends is all in a day's work for office workers, it seems. A new survey suggests white-collar staff waste about 90 minutes of every day on non-work tasks. Workers spend 54 minutes a day gossiping, 16 minutes flirting, 14 minutes surfing the internet, nine minutes e-mailing family and friends and three minutes shopping online.

Project managers, therefore, should allow for non-productive time if estimates are to be realistic. This is not to suggest that they should unquestioningly allow for some of the more dubious non-work practices identified in the survey, but they should take account of sickness, training and annual leave. This means that most organisations have a standard productivity rate, which can vary between 65% and 80%.

e Productivity does not always increase when more people are allocated to a task. Sometimes the reverse is true. Creating a document is often best left to one person; to assign an additional person may double the duration as they discuss it between them. The quality may well be improved, but that is only one outcome. If the target is economy, it is often preferable to identify the best person for the job and allow him to tackle it alone. e People have different productivity rates. Choosing the best person for the job, or the fastest, may not always be possible. As people work at different rates, a person's experience and speed must be a factor when creating an estimate. A junior member of the team might take two days to deliver a specific product, whereas a more senior member could do the same work in half the time. When thinking about how long something will take to deliver, it is usual to think of ourselves. This "halo" effect assumes that everyone else is a good as we are. But everyone has a unique complement of skills, knowledge, experience and competencies, so an estimate should be tailored to the person who will actually deliver the product. A series of factors can be developed to account for different work rates. Alternatively, named individuals or skill sets should be identified before estimating the effort required to deliver each product. e Productivity increases are usually temporary. Frederick Herzberg, an American psychologist, showed that even after increasing workers' salaries, the motivational and productivity improvement lasted for a relatively short time, after which they reverted to what he called the "Potter Line", a rate of productivity which, for them, was normal.

Here are some ways a project manager can increase the likelihood that estimates will be dependable:

e Let people estimate their own work. The halo effect can be used to the project's advantage. If someone estimates for themselves, they know best the speed at which they work and what else they have to do during the same period of time. There is an added advantage that once team members have estimated their own work, they have created a form of contract with the project which makes it difficult to suggest that the estimates are unreasonable or unachievable. e Make planning assumptions clear. Once the planning assumptions are documented, they are available for questioning and challenge. In this way, the project management team can assure themselves that the estimates are based on reliable and robust planning conditions. e Agree product descriptions. The product is intended to be the outcome that satisfies its intended audience. This target should be agreed before development begins, not only to increase the likelihood of a successful delivery, but also to ensure that both the delegator and the person being delegated to have the same product in mind. Once the outcome is agreed, any debate about timescale or budget is more rational.

e Look at metrics from previous work. If a team member suggests it will take ten days to complete a product when it took 20 to fulfil a similar objective, the project manager has useful evidence for improving the reliability of the estimate.

e Negotiate penalty/reward clauses. Estimates can be made to appear more reliable when penalties drive up the standard of performance and productivity, at least temporarily. Offering a reward can have a similar effect. Much depends on the person or team since everyone is motivated by something different.

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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