Time and Project Managers – The 80% Rule

Inexperienced Project Managers, regardless of their industry come to me regularly with the same two problems:-

“Regardless of how carefully I have planned my project always overruns.”

“Regardless of how carefully I have costed my project is always over budget.”

Stress ensues. Blood pressure rises. Staff work longer hours to catch up and both the management and the client are spitting blood. But for a new Project Manager, management will judge whether a project has succeeded or failed on whether it’s been delivered on time and on budget. You will need to be able to negotiate realistic budgets and successful deadlines if you want to be well respected in this career.

Almost without exception extended projects are due to one cause. The amount of time  needed to complete it has been seriously underestimated.

Now, certain aspects are beyond our control, unexpected events or urgent high priority work for example, but if The 80% Rule is implemented an awful lot of  new Project Managers would be more successful, less stressed and home from work at a decent time sipping Chablis and thinking about the new Italian Restaurant down the road. What is the 80% Rule?

Well, if you answer the questions above with ‘By how much?’ you’ll get an amazingly similar reply. 90% of projects that overrun do so by the same amount – 17-23%. Regardless of the minutae of the excuses. A figure which varies only marginally regardless of the industry. It should be assumed that your resources and people will only be productive for only 80% of the time.

Why? Apart from a natural over-optimism (that will often significantly underestimate the amount of time it takes to complete tasks), unexpected events should be factored in. People get sick, their family members get sick, suppliers run out of stock, accidents happens, equipment fails. You’ll need  time to have meetings and to solve problems. Part time staff and freelancers will have other commitments and may not see your project as a priority. The possibilities for delay are numerous.

So do all the estimates and scheduling you would normally do in the creation and costing of your project. Use whichever criterium or method you find most successful;- Three-Point, Parametric, Comparative…but remember the 80% Rule and you might get to that new Italian after all.

With thanks to www.mindtools.com

steve chew

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