Project Management is both an art and a science. It combines strict rules with a whole lot of gut feel in new situations. It can be a very rewarding job. Unfortunately, many tedious and menial chores fill the to‑do lists of project managers. These dreadfully mind‑numbing duties usually do not need human judgment and can be classified as toil. So why not reduce toil, as it does not bring value and saps precious time, energy, and morale?
There are four telltale signs of toil. The closer your tasks match the following descriptions, the more likely they are toil:
No enduring value
If all remain in the same state after finishing your task, it means that it was toil. If the task produced permanent results it probably hasn’t toiled. Some tedious work that produces tangible results and builds value can be taken for toil, but it is not.
A task performed for the first or second time does not toil. Toil is something that you do over and over again. If you are solving an unusual problem or inventing a new solution it does not toil.
The work could, and probably should be done by a machine. If the task requires human judgment, it does not toil.
The work requires hands-on time that could be better spent elsewhere. Starting processes from prepared templates saves time. But if it requires direct involvement it still qualifies as toil.
Reducing toil is important, as it is the single most important factor limiting growth. An increased workload can be a cap for growing the business. If you do not curb the toil in your workflow, you will have problems looming around the corner.
There are several steps that you can take to tackle the ever-growing toil problem:
- Focus your efforts on where you add value, not on repetitive tasks. Automation is the primary tool for getting rid of toil. The more effort you put into automating tasks, instead of doing them, the more persistent value you create.
- Your project management skills should be better used in helping vendors and solving client issues. But this takes time. The time that should not be spent on automatable chores.
- Error-prone data entry operations should be automated. Use automated calculations and CAT analysis files wherever possible to avoid mistakes.
- Use a system that can formalize and implement your processes. Instead of having to perform the process, you will become its supervisor. Management should consist of monitoring the work, not doing it manually.
- Last but not least, there is a lot of toils related to communication. Changing the communication paradigm from push to pull will reduce the effort required. If the vendors and clients have a single go-to place to get their documents, there will be no need to manually manage to send the info.
Nowadays, the performance of an employee is starting to be measured by the amount of work not done. Or rather, work saved due to automation. Formalized, automated project management processes transform the role of a project manager. From a process performer, he becomes its supervisor. That relieves stress and workload, as automated processes continue to work while the PMs are away.
The recent advancements in process automation are starting to make a virtue out of laziness. It is, however, enlightened laziness – where a pound of work put into automation today saves a ton of work tomorrow. Start being lazy. Start automating today and make you toil into an automated toy.