At some point, most of us have been required to submit time cards. To most professionals the task often seems maddeningly trivial, especially when the card is due in ten minutes, we've forgotten how we actually spent our time for a few days, and the whole thing is just a piece of fiction.
In accounting or law, where time spent determines client billing, time reporting is obviously necessary. For many other professions, expended-effort data seems to have no real purpose. But expended-effort data can be an indispensable management tool for project-oriented organizations.
Why is this data so important? Projects are supposed to end. Often there's much more project work to be done than people to do it, which creates pressure to complete successfully any existing projects. That's one reason why project sponsors always ask, "When will it be done?"
To answer such questions, project managers need to know roughly how long each task should take, and how much effort has been expended so far. They estimate the former and measure the latter.
Management would rather estimate than guess time to completion. Lacking historical effort data, estimates cannot be based on data; lacking current effort data, actuals are little more than hunches. By tracking the time of project team members, project managers can control projects better because they can base their estimates on real data.
The primary requirements
of any time-card system
respect their time
and respect themIf your organization is project-oriented, and you don't yet collect expended-effort data, you might consider starting. But whether a system is in place, or you're considering one, take care that it meets your needs without burdening or insulting professionals. A well-designed system can be minimally intrusive and still yield useful data.
Here are some criteria for a time card system that doesn't put the corporate culture at risk:
- Gather effort data only from the people who work on projects.
- Include all overtime.
- Don't bother with supervisor's signatures. Any professional inept enough to get caught lying that way is not to be trusted with important project work.
- Collect data weekly. This helps keep people fairly current.
- Don't try to account for 100% of a person's time — focus on the time spent on project work.
- Put the system on the Intranet. Make it easy to use from anywhere.
- Provide a separate account for each project task, so you can compare actuals with estimates.
- Pick a minimum resolution: 15 minutes or more. Any finer than that is fiction.
- Report all work done, no matter where — even at home or on travel.
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- And on October 30: Power Distance and Risk
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On 14 December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough. But to organizational leaders, business analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. We'll use the history of this event to explore lessons in leadership and its application to organizational efforts. A fascinating and refreshing look at leadership from the vantage point of history. Read more about this program.
Here's a date for this program:
- Baldwin-Wallace University, 275 Eastland Road, Berea, Ohio
44017: November 7,
Kerzner Lecture Series/International Project Management Day, sponsored by Baldwin Wallace University and the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Project Management Institute.
- Baldwin-Wallace University, 275 Eastland Road, Berea, Ohio 44017: November 7, Kerzner Lecture Series/International Project Management Day, sponsored by Baldwin Wallace University and the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
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Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
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