The Project Notebook

Scale the Bureaucracy


Typewriters are gone. Yet this week I saw one of those “automatic” carbon forms — a form in triplicate. These are all but extinct too. But it was an important reminder of a lesson learned for me — scale your project bureacracy to fit the size of the project team.

Why is this important? If you and your team number six, and there is you and four team leads, you may find yourself short of team members to carry out the work. This is especially true if the team leads have to fill out daily logs, timecards, status reports, and forms, forms, forms, in triplicate. Project governance time shouldn’t outweigh the project work time.

Before suggesting the addition of another team lead or adding more bureaucracy, take a look at some basic prinicples for guidance:

– The average management span of control is 7-10 and a team lead should be able to handle 4-6. This needs to be examined in light of the work performed.
– Look at the work time and responsibilities of your leaders; “oversite” time should be less than “leading” time. On one project where I had three groups of 10 people working in different areas, one “supervisor” was appointed for each group to make sure things moved along smoothly.
– Always look for ways to reduce “administrivia”. GE Workout or just a lead and lag time analysis are good ways to perform this analysis.
– Find project team members who are enthusiastic about fulfilling their roles and who want to always do their best work — they will require far less supervision than someone who is just along for the ride.
– Require managers and leads to perform project work as well. Make sure the management responsibilities add value. Team leads and similar positions should be spending only 25% of their time managing. Line managers may need 50% of their time to manage and only senior directors and VPs need to focus 100% of their effort on management tasks. These are just rules of thumb.
– Even small companies can benefit from these suggestions. Frequently they want to add management layers and titles to make everyone feel promoted, but the management and title heavy culture will be difficult to change later.

So to get things done, be the one to cut through red tape and management overhead. Scaling the bureaucracy will help you and your teams be more effective.

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© 2010-2012 Ray W. Frohnhoefer, MBA, PMP, CCP