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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Guest Post: Combat Project Overload with Prioritization

Today I am pleased to present a guest post by Antonio Ferraro of Creative Safety Supply (one of our sponsors). Antonio talks about managing multiple projects and provides some tips on prioritization. This a subject we can all relate to and perhaps use some help improving.
In the work environment, it is not uncommon to have multiple projects going on at once; in fact many organizations have numerous improvement projects going on in every department every day. Many of the projects underway tend to focus on saving time, money, and resources. However, is there ever a time when it is appropriate to say too many projects is just too much? If a company is constantly pulling its top employees in all directions to work on several projects, those people will typically under-perform on each project assigned. They will be overworked and overloaded and not able to dedicate the creativity and ingenuity needed to really help make a project successful. The key to business projects is prioritization. Prioritization is a simple term that means to put things in order based on importance. This sounds pretty simple, right? Well, if it was so simple businesses would never struggle with project overload and that is simply not the case. There has to be some sort of happy medium where the projects being worked on are prioritized so the most important projects are tackled first and the subsequent less immediate projects are worked on after the more important projects have been accomplished.

Example of Project Overload
A business specializing in tool making is constantly looking for ways to improve sales and business processes, so top managers put together a series of projects aimed at increasing sales and production as well as some thoughts for new projects. Each department is given a list of projects that must be completed by a specified date. Some departments have nearly ten different projects that they must complete in varying sizes from small to huge undertakings such as redesigning current production line arrangements. The employees who are eager to keep their jobs start trying to implement the projects and changes immediately. Managers in each department frantically try to brainstorm how the changes should be set-up, and start new processes and practices daily. Needless to say, everyone is stressed and the projects being implemented are not as nearly as effective as they looked on paper. This is a disaster! This is project overload. It usually doesn't ever end up being beneficial for meeting the business objectives and it really takes a toll on the staff as well.

Tips to Help Make Projects Successful
As mentioned above prioritization is crucial when choosing to implement projects within a business. It’s never a good decision to take on too many projects as most will fail and prove ineffective while others will just never get finished. When deciding on what and how many projects to tackle, certain criteria should be taken into consideration. One important step is to create a functional leadership team that will be dedicated towards a specific project from start to finish. Another tip is to identify the most important areas in need of improvement and to list them in order of priority as well as what resources may be needed to assist in project implementation. Furthermore, the use of an acceptable timeline should also be involved. If projects are significant, it doesn't make sense to spend only a week in project development and then start implementing changes immediately thereafter. Adequate time should be allocated depending on the project’s size and level of importance.

In a nutshell, projects are usually a good thing; however, project overload is not. It is not a good idea to dilute valuable resources by trying to implement too many projects all at once. Time needs to be taken to focus on the most important projects first so you are not setting yourself up to fail before even starting.

About Author: Antonio Ferraro - On behalf of Creative Safety Supply based in Portland, OR (www.creativesafetysupply.com). I strive to provide helpful information to create safer and more efficient industrial work environments. My knowledge base focuses primarily on practices such as 5S, Six Sigma, Kaizen, and the Lean mindset. I believe in being proactive and that for positive change to happen, we must be willing to be transparent and actively seek out areas in need of improvement. An organized, safe, and well-planned work space leads to increased productivity, quality products and happier employees.

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