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Apple pushed off the launch of their HomePod because they needed “a little more time” to refine it. Windows continuously delayed an anticipated feature for Windows 10 , before quietly axing it altogether. Even construction of the Sydney Opera House was only supposed to take four years. It ended up taking 14.
But why does this happen? Why does team productivity (and as a result, your schedule) run off the rails? Parkinson’s Law has a lot to do with it.
Understanding Parkinson’s Law is only half the battle. What you really want to know is how to prevent that eleventh-hour crunch to get work shipped.
At the start of your group project, it should be made obvious to your team:
Ensuring alignment around those pieces empowers team members to see the impact of their work, which will ignite their motivation and sense of ownership over their assigned tasks and milestones.
When there is no clear importance or impact associated with the task, research shows that teams that understand how their work fits in to the bigger picture are more effective (they’re more creative and resilient, to boot).
At the start of your group project, make obvious to your team:
What this project’s value is (the vision)
Why this project makes sense for your team and your organization (the drivers)
Ensuring alignment around those pieces empowers team members to see the impact of their work, It will ignite motivation and sense of ownership over their assigned tasks / milestones.
Clearly outline where everybody fits! Use the DACI framework to establish clear roles related to group work and decision-making. “DACI” stands for:
D = Driver. The one person responsible for corralling stakeholders, collating all necessary information, and getting a decision made by the agreed date. This may or may not be the project’s full-time owner, depending on the decision.
A = Approver. The one person making the decision.
C = Contributors. They have knowledge / expertise that influences the decision (they have a voice, but no vote).
I = Informed. They are informed of the final decision.
Parkinson’s Law is more than a fancy term for procrastination – it means that work expands to fill the allotted time. That’s the very definition of scope creep.
During your project kickoff, you and your team should agree upfront about what is in and out of scope for the project.
By establishing these guidelines from the outset, your whole team is better equipped to nip Parkinson’s Law in the bud. When a new feature request or another suggestion comes up during the course of the project, point it back to project kickoff and remind the team that you all agreed that variable was out of scope.
Unexpected surprises will crop up and threaten to throw your whole project out of scope and off schedule. In those moments, you’ll be glad that you identified your trade-offs early on. Your trade-offs allow you to see where you have the most wiggle room available in a project, should you need to make last-minute adjustments.
Timing, scope, and budget are the most common vectors to play with here, and these should be prioritized during your kickoff. Rather than work expanding to fit allotted time, you might actually need to reduce the work or other expectations to fit the time window.
While outlining your timeline, you should identify milestones and deadlines that occur within the project.
This makes the larger project more manageable, and instills a greater sense of urgency to get the work started – even if the end date for the whole project isn’t fast-approaching, the deadline for that first task certainly is. Plus, this allows the team to feel like they’re gaining meaningful momentum on the project, which is highly motivating (something referred to as the progress principle).
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