Time Robbers

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Project managers are not merely managers, but are doers as well. As a result, they suffer from the time robbers of both the managers and the doers. If the project manager is not careful, and overemphasizes his role as a doer rather than a manager, the impact of time robbers may become monumental.

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 than not, the employee wants to take the monkey off of his back and put it onto yours. If the latter is, in fact, the real truth, then the employee's problem is now your problem.

The correct way to handle a situation such as this is first to 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, the employee 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, then they soon learn how to make decisions and your time demands may ease up.

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

• Incomplete work

•A job poorly done that must be done over

• Poor communications channels

• Uncontrolled telephone calls

• Lack of adequate responsibility and commensurate authority

• Poor functional performance

• Changes without direct notification/explanation

• Casual visitors

• 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

• Spending more time than anticipated in answering

• Lack of sufficient clerical support

• Late appointments

• Impromptu tasks

• Union grievances

• Having to explain ''thinking" to superiors

• Too many levels of review

• Too many people in a small area

• Office casual conversations

• Misplaced information

• Record keeping

• Shifting priorities

• Indecision or delaying decisions


Proofreading correspondence

• Setting up appointments

• Too many meetings

• Monitoring delegated work

• Unclear roles/job descriptions

• Unnecessary crisis intervention

• Overcommitted outside activities questions

• Executive meddling

• Budget adherence requirements

• Poorly educated customers

• Need to get involved in details to get job done

• Not enough proven or trustworthy managers

• Vague goals and objectives

• Lack of a job description

• Too many people involved in minor decision making

• Lack of technical knowledge

• Disorganization of superiors

• Lack of authorization to make judgment decisions

• Poor functional status reporting

• Inability to use one's full potential

• Overeducated for daily tasks

• Work overload

• Unreasonable time constraints

• Lack of commitment from higher authorities

• Not being responsible for the full scope

• Indecision on the part of higher management

• Lack of adequate project management tools

• Poor functional communications/writing skills

• Departmental "buck passing"

• Meetings with executives

• Inability to relate to peers in a personal way

• Rush into decisions/beat the deadlines

• People being overpaid for their work

• Lack of reward ("a pat on the back can do wonders")

• Expecting too much from one's people and oneself

• Multiple time constraints

• Nonsupportive family

• Company political power struggles

• Going from crisis to crisis

• Conflicting directives

• Line management acting as a "father" figure

• Lack of challenge in job duties

• Project manager not involved/unknowledgeable about decision making

• Bureaucratic roadblocks ("ego")

• Empire-building line managers

• No communication between sales and engineering

• Too much work for one person to handle effectively

• Excessive paperwork

• Lack of clerical/administrative support

• Workload growing faster than capacity

• Dealing with unreliable subcontractors

• Reeducating project managers

• Lack of new business

• Personnel not willing to take risks

• Demand for short-term results

• Lack of long-range planning

• Being overdirected

• Changing company systems, which requires relearning

• Overreacting management

• Poor lead time on projects

• Disregard for company or personal things

• Documentation (reports/red tape)

• Large number of projects

• Inadequate or inappropriate requirements

• Desire for perfection

• Lack of dedication by technical experts

• Poor salary compared to contemporaries

• Lack of project organization

• Constant pressure

• Constant interruptions

• Problems coming in waves

• Severe home constraints

• Project monetary problems

• Shifting of functional personnel

• Lack of employee discipline

• Lack of qualified manpower

Sometimes, the project manager's inability to effectively handle a time robber will create additional time robbers. Consider the following list of "how not to get something done."2

• Profess to not having the answer. That lets you out of having any answer.

• Say that we must not move too rapidly. That avoids the necessity of getting started.

• For every proposal, set up an opposite and conclude that the middle ground (no motion whatever) represents the wisest course of action.

• When in a tight place, say something that the group cannot understand.

• Look slightly embarrassed when the problem is brought up. Hint that it is in bad taste, or too elementary for mature consideration, or that any discussion of it is likely to be misinterpreted by outsiders.

• Say that the problem cannot be separated from other problems. Therefore, no problem can be solved until all other problems have been solved.

• Point out that those who see the problem do so because they are unhappy—rather than vice versa.

• Ask what is meant by the question. When it is sufficiently clarified, there will be no time left for the answer.

• Move away from the problem into endless discussion of various ways to study it.

2 Source unknown.

• Put off recommendations until every related problem has been definitively settled by scientific research.

• Carry the problem into other fields; show that it exists everywhere; hence, everyone will just have to live with it.

• Introduce analogies and discuss them rather than the problem.

• Explain and clarify over and over again what you have already said.

• As soon as any proposal is made, say that you have been doing it for ten years.

• Wait until some expert can be consulted.

• Say, "That is not on the agenda; we'll take it up later." This may be extended ad infinitum.

• Conclude that we have all clarified our thinking on the problem, even though no one has thought of any way to solve it.

• Point out that some of the greatest minds have struggled with this problem, implying that it does us credit to have even thought of it.

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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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