I've received several comments on the most recent Pragmatic Managers: Create Successful Schedules and Three Secrets to Creating Your Focus Time. Then, the writer asks, “What do I do when I have way too much to do?”
Use a parking lot.
Sometimes, I use a parking lot to kill projects slowly. If I haven't gotten around to those projects in a year, am I really going to do them? Is it time to kill this project or find another way to finish it? I use the length of time the work is on the parking lot as a way to guide my decisions.
More often, I might want to get to those projects, but later.
You, too, can put some of your work on your personal parking lot. Then, you can discuss when you'll get to the work in the future. Here's how:
- Create a board with four columns: the project name, the date you put the project on the board, the way you might describe the project value, and any other notes about the project.
- Now, add all the projects you can't do right now. Not because you're not interested, but because you're waiting for someone else, or you have higher ranked work.
- Decide the cadence at which you will review your parking lot and with whom.
(If you want to see a picture of a parking lot, check out Postpone Work with a Parking Lot.)
Tom, is a Director in an agile organization. He's been working with the relevant product people to discuss several possible new products. Every so often, he needs to ask several technical leaders to discuss their options.
One of the technical leaders, Sally, got fed up with the interruptions. She showed Tom her personal project portfolio and said he needed to decide: did he want her to work on her current work or future work?
Tom realized he'd fallen into the trap of “do all the future planning as well as all the current work.” Tom decided he would create a parking lot for the work his teams were doing and showed that parking lot to his VP.
Tom explained, “We haven't made time in our project portfolio for all the work we need to finish now, and the investigations of future work. Here's my parking lot.”
The VP wasn't happy and asked Tom how the heck they would do the pre-work for the next generation of projects.
“Make the pre-work little tiny projects. Decide which teams will work on them. That way we're not trying to do it ‘all' and not succeeding with any of it.”
The VP decided Tom had a point and created small one-week projects that would deliver answers to questions or prototypes. The teams were excited because they got to think about the future every so often. Sally was back to her happy self. And Tom no longer had to feel as if he was running around like the proverbial chicken.
Consider using a parking lot to manage the “when” for the projects you can't do all at the same time.
I still haven't finished managing my workshop changes. Maybe by the next time you hear from me… Yes, this work is not yet off my parking lot.
Are you new to the Pragmatic Manager newsletter? See previous issues here.
Here are links you might find useful:
- My Books
- Online Workshops
- Managing Product Development Blog
- Create an Adaptable Life
- Johanna's Fiction
Till next time,
© 2018 Johanna Rothman
Tags: Manage Your Project Portfolio, project portfolio management, servant leadership