Routine in Project Execution

routine (noun) Fixed habit or method in action; the habitual doing of the same things in the same way; unvarying procedure or conduct.

From http://www.finedictionary.com/routine.html

Projects are complex by nature. The critical path not only goes through tasks and their dependencies but also through people itself, their personal conditions and the team dynamics. It is usual to have a perfect plan but the project gets off track due to a mediocre execution. If we agree that execution is key in project success, then we will think about what means a project manager has to deal with it. A powerful but yet frequently underestimated way available for project managers is to create routine.

What are the benefits of a routine?

“Routine reduces complexity and it is the foundation of the creation of habits”

Routine reduces complexity by making use of some basic set of rules for the organization of the project. Team members involved in producing the project product especially benefit from having some routine in their work as it helps them develop productive habits.

Classic and agile project management frameworks already address the topic or habits and routine. Regular reporting and weekly status meetings with fixed agenda are a good example of them in waterfall methods. On the other side, agile frameworks like Scrum prescribe events like daily stand-ups, customer review and retrospectives which focus on building and maintaining habits through routine.

One example that I personally like when talking about the value of a routine is how it prevents decision fatigue in the project team. Decision making is an exhausting mental process. Some studies showed that after too many decisions the quality of the decisions critically drops. The person taking care of the organization of the project can help the team with a consistent and regular framework with established rules. The team can then use its energy to discuss and decide on important topics instead of waisting time wondering when to meet next, what needs to be prepared beforehand and who will participate.

What are the risks of routines?

Over-routinizing can have negative effects as well. Bad habits coming from badly applied routine in the form of inefficient meetings and unnecessary reporting will affect people engagement and make people passive. We need to understand that not everything is suitable to fit into a routine, because maintaining such a structure can become easily an overhead for the project. For instance, individual interactions should be left to the people to decide when and how to share information.

Tips to start applying it to your projects

  • Decide which meetings are crucial and which are flexible for changes or can be canceled.
  • Prepare a consistent agenda to get the most out of the meeting and stick to it in every single meeting to help your stakeholders to understand how to prepare for the meeting and how to use it.
  • Select a time slot for your regular meetings and only reschedule them in exceptional cases. 

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