Project Management Tips for Designers

Project Management, Task Allocation and Leadership Training

What is the best way to allocate tasks and resources to team members? What are the implications for project management and leadership? What should be included on task allocation in project management training materials? These topics are discussed in this article.

You have been assigned to function as the team leader. You are fairly new to managerial role and now find yourself in charge of leading and tasking other members of the team. Your design ability is very good and people can easily relate to you. So you are confident that you can successfully lead them. There is only one area you are concerned about and that is tasking. So far you have been given tasks by others, but now you need to allocate different chunks of the work to different team members. What is the best method to use to address this problem systematically?

Fortunately, there is an established task allocation method that enhances your leadership skills and helps you to systematically address this problem. Here are the main steps:

- Break down the project into small tasks.
An established method in project management is to create what is called WBS, or Work Breakdown Structures. These are tasks that are formally defined which include details such as what is required as input to them, what needs to be done and what comes out of them. If you have a small project, you can simply divide the overall work into logically distinct tasks.

- Rank all tasks based on importance.
Here you want to distinguish between those tasks that are critical or need to be done early than those tasks that are easy or that the quality of their output is not as important as others.

- List the competencies of each team member.
Identify who is good at what. This is usually a combination of what they have done in the past, what their field is, what they are enthusiastic to do and what they are good at doing (whether they know it themselves or not). You can refer to previous project managers, historical records, etc. to obtain more information about each individual’s skills. Large companies usually keep an online skills database that staff can tap into to find who is good at what.

- Match competencies with tasks.
Now go through the tasks and match them with team members. A critical task should be given to someone who has a proven track record. You may need to allocate challenging but not critical tasks to aspiring team members who may not have previous experience but are eager to get involved. Enthusiasm for particular jobs can go a long way that could easily compensate for the lack of experience or familiarity. Besides, after the project you will end up with a loyal experienced team member who you can use in more sophisticated and challenging projects.

Experience or Cost

When assigning tasks you are usually deciding between the two sides of the spectrum. You can allocate a task to individuals who are really good and experienced. This adds certainty and is useful when you have tasks that are critical to get right. On the other hand, use of staff at lower organizational level allows you to get the job done cheaper. This can be a critical factor if your project’s budget is strictly limited and you need to somehow compromise on something to get the project rolling.

An Alternative Project Management Solution

Fortunately there is another way to approach this and that’s through training. You can train staff to become better in certain skills and then use them in the project. This way you minimize the risk of failure of the task while taking advantage of cost savings. In many organizations, there is a dedicated budget for training which a project manager you can tap into without affecting the available budget of the project. In addition, this is beneficial to your organization since the training is specifically used in your project to save costs which also frees up experienced staff that can be used elsewhere. In other words, use of training in this way creates a win/win situation for all parties. You can send team members for leadership skills training and allow them to be in charge of a subset of the team, in turn reducing the demand on your time.

Dealing with Gaps

If there are gaps in the competencies that you have identified, you have three choices; you can recruit individuals who have the right expertise, you can train your current staff or you can outsource the task to external suppliers.

Outsourcing highly depends on the nature of your project and in many cases it is not a viable option due to confidentiality, ownership of work done, etc. However, always consider it as an option. Recruiting can be lengthy and time consuming and any employee will take 6 months to 1 year before he or she becomes truly productive.

On the other hand, training current staff is usually quite easy and cost effective. It is not subject to business familiarity since the team member is already familiar with the nature of your business and might have worked with others in the team already. When confronted with gaps, always consider training as a strong solution. For this, you can send staff to specific training courses or if you have many people to train, you can obtain editable training materials and customise them based on your specific needs. This is usually the most cost effective method and you get to retain control of the training as well.

As discussed in this article, good leadership skills require an ability to carry out effective task allocation and there are systematic methods you can use to achieve this.

By Chelsea Elm
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Chelsea Elm is a training consultant with many years of experience in the training industry. She is interested in soft skills, management, corporate training, productivity and train the trainer. Based in the UK, the training company provides Training Resources, Workbooks, Power Points Slides and Course Notes for corporate trainers and organisations.