Time Robbers

The most challenging problem facing the project manager is his inability to say no. Consider the situation in which an employee comes into your office with a problem. The employee may be sincere when he says that he simply wants your advice but, more often

1. Sections 6.1, 6.2, and 6.3 are adapted from David Cleland and Harold Kerzner, Engineering Team Management (Melbourne, Florida: Krieger, 1986), Chapter 8.

than not, the employee wants to take the monkey off of his back and put it onto yours. The employee's problem is now your problem.

To handle such situations, first screen out the problems with which you do not wish to get involved. Second, if the situation does necessitate your involvement, then you must make sure that when the employee leaves your office, he realizes that the problem is still his, not yours. Third, if you find that the problem will require your continued attention, remind the employee that all future decisions will be joint decisions and that the problem will still be on the employee's shoulders. Once employees realize that they cannot put their problems on your shoulders, they learn how to make their own decisions.

There are numerous time robbers in the project management environment. These include:

• Incomplete work

• A job poorly done that must be done over

• Telephone calls, mail, and email

• Lack of adequate responsibility and commensurate authority

• Changes without direct notification/explanation

• Waiting for people

• Failure to delegate, or unwise delegation

• Poor retrieval systems

• Lack of information in a ready-to-use format

• Day-to-day administration

• Union grievances

• Having to explain "thinking" to superiors

• Too many levels of review

• Casual office conversations

• Misplaced information

• Shifting priorities

• Indecision at any level


• Setting up appointments

• Too many meetings

• Monitoring delegated work

• Unclear roles/job descriptions

• Executive meddling

• Budget adherence requirements

• Poorly educated customers

• Not enough proven managers

• Vague goals and objectives

• Lack of a job description

• Too many people involved in minor decision-making

• Lack of technical knowledge

• Lack of authorization to make decisions

• Poor functional status reporting

• Work overload

• Unreasonable time constraints

• Lack of adequate project management tools

• Departmental "buck passing"

• Company politics

• Going from crisis to crisis

• Conflicting directives

• Bureaucratic roadblocks ("ego")

• Empire-building line managers

• No communication between sales and engineering

• Excessive paperwork

• Lack of clerical/administrative support

• Dealing with unreliable subcontractors

• Personnel not willing to take risks

• Demand for short-term results

• Lack of long-range planning

• Learning new company systems

• Poor lead time on projects

• Documentation (reports/red tape)

• Large number of projects

• Desire for perfection

• Lack of project organization

• Constant pressure

• Constant interruptions

• Shifting of functional personnel

• Lack of employee discipline

• Lack of qualified manpower

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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