Friday, 9 August 2013

Holidays Are No Excuse For Delay

It’s August and across much of the UK and Europe that means holiday. Companies that don’t close completely are usually operational with the bare minimum of staff as the majority enjoy being away from the office and email. Those who are working at this time can find it difficult to make progress on anything but the most standard activities. 

As holiday periods get closer people and activities naturally slow down. Interest wanes, attention wavers and conversations are more about plans and less about the task at hand. Once holidays are taken and everyone’s returned it can take days and sometimes weeks for people and activities to ramp up again. Whether it’s August in the northern hemisphere or December in the southern, the holiday period can have a serious impact. 

Can a period of complete inactivity be avoided? Yes. Can momentum be maintained and deadlines achieved even during slow periods? Yes. 

While we all do our utmost to plan ahead here are 4 things that can help reduce delays that would otherwise be an acceptable part of doing business during the holidays. 

1. Dig for detail early – This includes all those things that relate to scope, timeframe, resourcing, dependencies and above all else, the business outcomes. Peel those layers and levels of interest, commitment and motivations. Who wants want, when, where and why. A lot will be documented, a lot more will not. Uncovering the key drivers and influencers at this point reduces the risk of delay later.

2. Build a solid foundation – Take all that knowledge and build a plan. Not a timeline, gantt chart or schedule of detailed tasks. Like a military manoeuvre this plan brings all the pieces together to build a picture and provide the framework for all that’s yet to be done. It gives everyone the same point of reference, clarifying why this is being done and what it’ll mean in the end. 

3. Organise skills and equipment – All work is dependent on the right people with the right skills being in the right place at the right time able to access equipment and other people in order to get work done. Identify constraints, dependencies, overlaps and gaps. Knowing where and when these occur or could throw things off track leaves everyone more informed for better decision making in the absence of others.

4. Establish logical break points – Holidays are not a surprise and any manager worth their salt will not cancel someone’s holiday. There are bank or public holidays, religious holidays, national event holidays, and annual holidays applied for and approved through a standard HR process. Capture them all and review against the schedule of work and the skills and equipment needed to do it. Look for tasks that will be affected by the holidays. Will stopping mid-task delay other tasks or create rework when restarted? Can tasks be rescheduled? Reallocated? Move things around where possible to maximise productivity and minimise rework.

Whether holiday time or not good planning, sound decision making and informed people will keep things on track and moving forward without the need for someone else’s holiday to be interrupted by phone calls, messages or regular checking of emails.

How do you make sure business and projects continue at this time of year?

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