If you are like most of the people I work with and meet, you have too much to do. You’d like to say, “No!” to more work, but maybe you’re not sure how.
The first step is to gather all the work, so you and everyone else knows what you’re doing. I like showing people with a picture, not a spreadsheet. This collection of work is your project portfolio.
Take a look at these blog posts to see ways to show your project portfolio:
* Visualizing All the Work in Your Project Portfolio
* More Ways to Visualize the Work in Your Project Portfolio
Once you can see all your work, you have choices. You can say:
* Yes to more work, because you can make tradeoffs;
* When to the work, because you can see when you might be available;
* No to more work, because you are so full it’s not reasonable to take more work.
When I work with people, they often say No is the most difficult answer. You know that multitasking slows you down. You also feel the pressure to say Yes.
You want to do the best work you can for your organization. Sometimes your best work is explaining to people why you need to say no.
Here are some ideas for how to say No:
* “Not right now,” and offer a new date.
* “This is what I can do.”
* “Here’s what I’m doing. What should I stop doing?”
* “Show me your current priorities.”
* “When do you need this?”
* “Here’s how I could do this,” and describe the results.
* “Here are some alternatives.”
* “Here are the risks.”
* “Let me see when I can do that. Let’s talk again in a day or two.”
It’s not easy to say No. You have many pressures on you to say Yes. When you do say No, you help yourself and the organization finish work faster.
A developer, Danny, was trying to support three released products, and work on the project-to-save-the-company. He had a personal backlog and decided each day where to spend his time.
One Wednesday, his manager, Gene, asked him to support a fourth product.
“Gene, my support work takes almost all my time. I’m barely working on the project-to-save-the-company. Let me show you what I’m doing.”
Danny showed Gene his board with all of his work. “What should I stop doing?” Danny wasn’t angry; he was puzzled.
Gene took one look at the board and sighed. “You know, when you show me this, I understand how much work you’re doing. I didn’t understand before. Let me work on this.”
Thursday, Gene returned and explained, “Okay, would this work? What if we put all the support work on the team’s backlog and not your personal backlog?”
“How about we get the product owner to rank all the work? How about if I funnel requests through the PO instead of coming to you directly?”
Danny said, “That’s exactly what we should do. I can share the support with the rest of the team. We can decide if we need different projects for supporting previous releases. We can make our decisions explicit.”
If you have too much to do and you’re not sure how to manage it all, consider showing a picture of your work. The visualization works whether you are a team member, team, or a department. Then, people can make decisions about the work in a way that makes sense.
If you want to know more about how to make decisions about your project portfolio, read Manage Your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects.
If you liked these tips, learn more at The Influential Agile Leader. Gil Broza and I create a safe learning environment where you can experiment. We teach experientially, so you have a chance to practice and reflect on what you learn. Please join us at The Influential Agile Leader. We have just a few spaces remaining in San Francisco and London.
Talks and Workshops sponsored by the KWSQA:
* Apr 28, Hiring for Cultural Fit
* Apr 28, Using Agile and Lean Instead of Playing Schedule Games
* Apr 29, Discovering the Leader Inside You
* Apr 30, Manage Your Project Portfolio: An Agile and Lean Approach
See my calendar page for all my workshops and speaking dates.
Do you need a friendly ear and some sound advice? See my coaching page for my packaged and customizable coaching services.
See my workshops page for my workshops.
© 2015 Johanna Rothman
Tags: leadership, Manage Your Project Portfolio, management, problem solving, project management, project portfolio management, saying no