Most organisations have a number of business improvement projects on the go at the same time as regular operational activities. I have observed that this often provides an exciting platform for staff to put up their hand to learn new areas of the business, gain some work experience, and to enjoy something different to work on, rather than what they would normally be doing in their regular job.
It can also be a time when confusion about new reporting lines, responsibilities and deadlines arise. All of a sudden a person appointed to a project can have two or more managers, additional responsibilities to their day-to-day tasks, new deadlines and they become unclear of their responsibilities and what their priorities need to be.
This often results in not only project milestones being missed but original tasks not being completed either – a ‘lose lose’ situation for everybody.
Clearly thinking through and defining new project roles, and how they will fit with current roles is crucial to productive teams and successful projects. Here are some simple steps to approach effectively transitioning your people from operational roles to project roles for the life of a project:
- Define your project schedule
It sounds obvious, but confirming a project schedule with timeframes and deliverables is the first step to understanding who you will need for what. How will your project team know what they are supposed to be doing if you don’t? This will also help you to recruit the right people with the right skills.
- Define project structure
Even projects need an organisational structure to demonstrate roles and reporting lines. This needs to show roles right up to your project sponsor at the top. This also needs to have the approval and endorsement of the sponsor.
- Document new role descriptions and deliverables
When defining the new role, ensure you document the percentage of time this role will take from the person’s capacity (i.e. is it 100% or just 40%?) and what are they going to achieve in their time they are to allocate to the new role? Tie this back to the deliverables in the project schedule.
- Gain support and approval from relevant leaders
Ensure the project sponsors and the managers of the people you are seconding sign off on the new roles. Specifically ensure the managers know how much of their people’s time you will be utilising. This will also trigger the consideration of which elements of the operational role can be paused or reallocated. Have them communicate this to their teams, and when the appropriate time comes, communicate to the wider organisation.
After your people have been selected, go through all of the above individually with each person that will be joining you on the project. Think about how their induction can set them up for success eg tools required and whether they should be relocated to a different office area.
Ensure you regularly check in with each person to measure progress and help them to remove barriers such as lapsing back into old roles.
- Disband the team
Once the project closes, support the transition of your project team members back to their regular teams.
Utilising current staff members for business improvement project roles definitely has its benefits, whether it be new opportunities for capability development, cross skilling, job variety, or simply a new challenge. It all leads to happy people; however, it all must be in conjunction with the appropriate planning and preparation for it to succeed.