Today’s fast-paced organizations are filled with hard working people that seem to be running on an endless treadmill of lofty expectations. Like waves on a beach, the daily grind of work can feel relentless and as though the very nature of how work is done actually discourages productivity.
Something has to change, the system of working is broken.
The answer for most managers inside the organization is to tinker with process and role changes. They typically focus on small improvements to daily tactics that might possibly improve output. Beyond the occasional boost, change is mostly minor and inconsequential.
Professional services agencies that live or die by billable revenue per employee have traditionally relied upon some type of time monitoring or tracking mechanism. When applied well, this view of time as a commodity encourages a healthier respect for the actual work and how it gets done.
Embracing traffic management can help every organization tackle these three common scenarios:
- People are under pressure to deliver on objectives but are bombarded with the constant flood of email, meetings, calls, business fire drills and the lure of procrastination.
- Managers don’t have the data to visualize actual workload and understand how much time is required to progress against major objectives each month.
- Senior leadership is left frustrated as to why progress and action seems to take forever inside of the organization.
Traffic management is about turning a light switch on inside your operations with the objective of nurturing a more productive and human (some would say humane) way of working. It is about optimizing output through workload balancing and creating an environment for people to succeed at their jobs. At the same time, traffic management also helps eliminate time wasted on organizational inefficiency and broken processes.
Changing how an organization works is not a small undertaking, it takes conviction and time.
The simplest answer is to first get some small wins by running a pilot program of traffic management within a contained group or department. Within six to twelve months of this pilot, there should be enough tangible evidence gathered to look at serious adoption across your organization.
The guiding rule is to keep a traffic management pilot small at first and to focus on keeping the system as simple as possible. You should imagine this as lightening the load of your team, not adding any new burdens.
Here are some simple steps towards implementing a traffic management pilot program:
- Have the individuals in the group organize their projects into categories and define approximate start/end dates against major milestones.
- Appoint a traffic manager to work individually with your people and forecast their monthly footprint of hours against each of the project categories. This should take into account all time against these jobs including emails, meetings, calls and other duties. The team or group forecast can be captured in a tool as simple as Excel, depending on the size of the pilot.
- Assign job codes to these major categories and have the team individually track their calendars and time back to the job codes. Search for a simple tracking technology that is cloud-based, lightweight and easy to learn.
- Create a simple and easy classification codes for non-project work that apply against the organization such as administrative, business development or travel.
- Have the traffic manager create a forecast vs. actual hour’s dashboard per team member, carrying load balancing insight forward each month and creating more accurate forecasts.
The biggest hurdle is resetting your work culture towards a more visible and accountable model. Intervals of 15 or even 30 minutes are generally enough to help create a lens into the work without this being terribly burdensome on people. Implementing this work style will be a challenge at first but it eventually helps people to start running a more disciplined workday.
Managing a daily calendar accurately encourages people to organize their work by first setting their blocks of time allocated to tasks and adjusting to actualize throughout the day. One great tip is to gamify the accuracy and discipline of time tracking through some type of incentives or rewards.
Culturally, it is important to get buy-in that time tracking is not an Orwellian effort to establish greater control. It’s about helping to eliminate wasted time on broken process and create a more balanced and meaningful work environment that celebrates high performance. It also helps to understand how to balance workloads across a team so that there is a fair and equitable model in the workplace. Honesty and accuracy are key; this is not about being punitive or piling on more work.
Establishing buy-in should revolve around communicating the concept that managers can use traffic management to help elevate work towards a higher value and lift people up inside the organization to achieve their full potential.
Any organization will massively benefit by taking the blinders off their productivity and understanding the relationship between meaningful work, time inputs and individual performance. The end result is typically a noticeable surge in morale as people feel that the organization truly cares about their work/life balance and that the time they invest at work is valued.
Take our advice and try making traffic management a core discipline, your people and your bottom line will reap the benefits.