Tips to “Working like a Boss”– Project Management Style
One of the most difficult things I encountered in making the transition to the federal workforce was getting out of the ingrained military mode of being in 1 of 2 camps of productivity:
High Speed Low Drag or High Drag Low Speed
Obviously, the higher the drag, the slower you work, the less productive you “appear.” Making that transition was difficult for me personally because I, well, have always been pretty high speed low drag. It makes the day go faster when I feel productive as I do not like having work hanging around when I can get it done and move onto the next best thing. Throw in a matrix and then now we can start having some fun in figuring out how to beat the work matrix and get the high evaluation on your end of year review.
If you have worked in any federal agency lately then you’ve likely encountered some sort of work matrix. You know, how many days you have to complete certain tasks and if it is not completed in time then likely there are some consequences to your performance goals.
When I first encountered a goal matrix, I thought, how in the world am I supposed to complete all these tasks within the year and manage to get things done well and to top it off have good customer feedback at the same time? You know, it is all wrapped up in this nice neat package of what you should complete without a lot of direction as to how one (management) expects you to get it all done.
To complete that thought, don’t forget you are doing more with less (less people and less time). So what I did, I reverse engineered my work and figured how to back things off like in a project management schedule and then re-established my own goals to complete actions on a monthly or quarterly basis so I could manage my own workload better. Think of it this way – how do you plan a meal? Do you wait until the last hour to put a roast on to cook? No, you buy the roast and get it cooking and then you cook the rest of your meal according to how it will all time out to finish for serving at the same time.
- Balance your due dates – Take your matrix and figure out how many widgets you have to complete and within what time-frame. If you have say 12 contract offers to complete then the goal is to work on at least 1 per month. I say at least 1 per month because things happen and processes bog down with negotiations so keep at least 2 going each month and work on finishing at least 1 per month.
- Coordinate work hand-offs – Look at your assigned work and see what you can coordinate with the other party to complete on their so that when you are working on a different matrix item then when this part comes back then you’ve already completed something else.
- Don’t ever let the workflow stagnate – it’s like keeping a pot stirred so it comes out with the right consistency. Keep good notes of where things are so that you can follow up with the other part to keep the workflow moving.
- Be effective – Let’s say you are a contracting officer and you are rejecting a modification – provide a complete review with what the deficiencies are so when the modification gets resubmitted then it can be resubmitted once with all the corrections made and the work is not duplicative.
- Be nice – ingratiate your customers – My customers love it when I make them feel important, I’m part of their team too except the federal government is paying me. We are all trying to accomplish the same goals. Serve them well and they and you will be rewarded with a cooperative relationship to get things done right the first time.
Eva Fulton is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.
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