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7 Effective Strategies to Reduce Attrition in Professional Services Organizations

“According to LinkedIn, the professional services sector has the highest attrition rate among all industries.”

In recent years, the professional services industry has seen a significant rise in employee attrition rates. This is due to several factors, such as sub-optimal utilization, high levels of stress and burnout, lack of proper compensation, poor career growth opportunities, and more.

Failure to address these issues can hinder the PSO’s ability to deliver projects on time and meet client expectations, thereby negatively impacting the firm’s top and bottom lines.

Therefore, it is the need of the hour for professional services firms to create a well-defined retention strategy that will help them maintain a robust talent pool.

This article elucidates the best techniques to reduce PSO attrition and how an efficient ERM tool like SAVIOM can help combat it.

Let’s begin!

 

Consequences of attrition in professional services firms

Employee attrition refers to the exit of resources from the organization for various reasons, such as resignations, retirements, transfers, etc. Frequent resource exits from a PSO can deplete the internal talent pool and have severe consequences on operational workflow.

When experienced consultants leave the PSO suddenly, it results in a loss of institutional knowledge. This also leads to increased training costs and project delays as new substitutes need time to gain proficiency in their roles.

In addition, unplanned attrition leads to last-minute firefighting of resources. It usually results in high-cost recruitments or the selection of inadequately skilled personnel, leading to budget/schedule overruns and substandard quality of deliverables.

Moreover, it adversely affects the team dynamics. The sudden departure of consultants can increase the workload of existing resources, hampering their productivity and leading to high burnout.

Knowing the repercussions of attrition, let’s learn the best methods to overcome them.

 

7 effective strategies to manage attrition in professional service firms

Professional services organizations need to take the following measures to minimize unplanned attrition:

1. Create a robust onboarding strategy for new hires

According to Glassdoor, organizations with effective employee onboarding can increase retention by 82%.

Robust onboarding processes can help new joiners in PSOs acclimatize to team dynamics, roles & responsibilities, and company culture. Therefore, managers must take them through the organizational structure and introduce them to team members. Moreover, the firms can assign mentors who can offer continuous support and guidance to the new hires throughout their journey.

In addition, PSOS can provide induction training to familiarize them with standard operating procedures and performance metrics. Besides, they can offer on-the-job learning opportunities where new employees can shadow their seniors to understand their roles better. This will help them build the necessary skills and knowledge, boost engagement, and lower the churn rate.

 

2. Assign professionals to suitable projects based on skills & interest

It is important to align the resources’ skills with suitable work as it increases productivity and engagement. Therefore, before assigning consultants to projects, managers must gain comprehensive visibility of their attributes, such as skills, qualifications, availability, experience, etc.

Moreover, managers must also consider the consultants’ interests when assigning them to projects. It improves their motivation and overall job satisfaction, making them less likely to seek opportunities elsewhere. Thus, competent allocation can minimize the risk of disengagement, burnout, and turnover significantly.

 

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3. Offer compensation packages as per market standards

“According to a Qualtrics survey, employees who are satisfied with their pay and benefits are 13% more likely to continue working for their current employer.”

Compensation is one of the most influential factors that shape the consultants’ decision to remain with the existing firm or seek new opportunities. Moreover, adequate compensation establishes a compelling proposition for consultants to be more productive and efficient.

Consequently, PSOs must offer competitive remuneration packages aligned with market standards to retain top-tier talent. In addition, they must consider providing performance-based variable pay and benefits such as health insurance, paid time off, incentives, etc. Incentivizing employees signals the company’s appreciation for their contributions, fostering prolonged tenure.

 

4. Provide stretch assignments to junior consultants periodically

Stretch assignments are a common practice in the professional services industry. These assignments are designed to test and upskill the capabilities of the consultants. Therefore, allocating junior and intermediate associates to such exercises helps them prepare for new challenges and grow professionally.

For example, a financial firm can assign junior auditors to specialized assignments focused on data analytics. This initiative enhances the auditors’ proficiency in this field and helps them streamline financial analysis processes. Thus, stretch assignments accelerate employees’ career trajectories, keep them engaged, and curb attrition.

 

5. Leverage senior consultants for strategic and leadership roles

Senior consultants often experience job monotony over time, which can lead to disengagement and, eventually, unplanned attrition. Therefore, managers must deploy them to strategic or leadership roles beyond their day-to-day activities that help them showcase their learnings and contribute to bigger organizational goals. For instance, an IT firm focuses on upskilling its team with emerging technologies like Generative AI and Datafication.

For this, the firm can assign senior consultants to conduct training sessions, mentoring programs, and workshops. Moreover, they can identify senior consultants who can utilize their skills and expertise to drive strategic initiatives such as building a robust talent pipeline. As a result, it improves their engagement and curbs attrition.

 

6. Formulate individual development plans for each employee

One of the primary reasons for high attrition rates in PSOs is the lack of career development opportunities. Therefore, to retain top talent, managers can create IDPs (Individual development plans) to help consultants pursue their career aspirations and enhance their professional attributes.

For example, in an IT consultancy firm, a software developer wants to improve proficiency in Django. So, managers can enroll them in an online course or facilitate in-house training sessions by experienced developers. This personalized training module increases engagement and lowers their likelihood of leaving the organization.

 

7. Develop a 360-degree holistic feedback system

Implementing an efficient feedback mechanism helps PSOs analyze each consultant’s performance and identify areas of improvement. It also allows resources to understand their strengths and weaknesses. Moreover, it serves as an opportunity for managers to show appreciation for consultants’ hard work.

A holistic system provides a two-way communication channel that helps PSOs eliminate workplace bias and quickly resolve internal conflicts based on employee feedback. This enhances transparency and fosters mutual trust between employers and employees. As a result, it enhances consultants’ work performance and job satisfaction, reducing the chances of unplanned attrition.

Next, let’s explore how resource management software can help.

 

How does advanced ERM help professional services firms reduce attrition?

Adopting futuristic resource management software like Saviom can empower service firms to devise a well-structured retention strategy to retain top talent.

  • The 360-degree visibility into consultants’ attributes enables competent allocation. When employees leverage their skills, it enhances their performance and motivation, thereby reducing attrition.
  • Forecasting and capacity planning features enable managers to forward plan future resource requirements and prevent excesses/shortages of consultants.
  • The competency matrix allows supervisors to identify professionals to be considered for stretch assignments and helps facilitate training programs.
  • Real-time BI reports like utilization, forecast vs. actual, etc., enable identifying and rectifying over/underutilization, lowering burnout and unplanned attrition.
  • The open seat feature helps consultants to apply for project vacancies. When they work on projects of their interest, it improves their engagement and minimizes turnover.

 

Wrapping up

Skilled consultants are the backbone of every PSO. Consequently, it is imperative for firms to cultivate a positive work environment that enhances job satisfaction and contributes to the retention of skilled professionals. By integrating the aforementioned best practices with ERM software, PSOs can effectively manage unplanned attrition and ensure sustained profitability.

Agile Project Management Essentials: Navigating the Basics

In the dynamic landscape of project management, Agile methodologies have emerged as a transformative approach, fostering adaptability and collaboration. Understanding the essentials of Agile Project Management is crucial for navigating the complexities of modern projects. This guide will take you through the basics, providing insights into Agile principles, methodologies, and the key components that make it a powerful framework for project delivery.

 

I. Introduction to Agile Project Management

What is Agile Project Management?

Agile Project Management is an iterative and flexible approach to project execution that prioritizes adaptability, collaboration, and customer satisfaction. It emphasizes incremental progress, allowing teams to respond to changing requirements and deliver value consistently.

Why Choose Agile Project Management?

Agile is chosen for its ability to address the limitations of traditional project management. Its iterative nature accommodates changes, encourages client involvement throughout the process, and promotes a more efficient and responsive project delivery.

 

II. Agile Principles: The Foundation of Flexibility

1. Customer Satisfaction Through Continuous Delivery

Agile places a premium on delivering valuable, working solutions regularly. This ensures continuous feedback from stakeholders and enables the team to adjust course based on evolving requirements.

2. Embracing Changes Throughout the Project

Unlike rigid project plans, Agile welcomes changes even late in the development process. This flexibility allows teams to adapt to emerging priorities and ensures the final product meets the client’s evolving needs.

3. Collaborative Team Dynamics

Agile emphasizes collaboration among cross-functional team members. The collective expertise contributes to more holistic problem-solving, fostering a sense of shared ownership and accountability.

 

III. Agile Methodologies: Scrum, Kanban, and More

1. Scrum: A Framework for Team Collaboration

Scrum is one of the most popular Agile methodologies, emphasizing iterative progress, short development cycles (sprints), and frequent team collaboration. It is particularly effective for complex projects with changing requirements.

2. Kanban: Visualizing Workflows for Continuous Improvement

Kanban focuses on visualizing workflow, limiting work in progress, and enhancing overall efficiency. It’s a versatile approach suitable for both project management and continuous improvement processes.

3. Lean Agile: Streamlining Processes for Efficiency

Lean Agile combines principles from Lean manufacturing and Agile methodologies to eliminate waste, optimize efficiency, and deliver maximum value to customers.

 

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IV. Key Components of Agile Project Management

1. User Stories: Understanding Client Needs

User stories are concise descriptions of desired functionalities from an end user’s perspective. They serve as the foundation for planning and executing Agile projects.

2. Sprint Planning: Iterative Development Cycles

Sprint planning involves breaking down project tasks into manageable units and prioritizing them for iterative development cycles. This ensures regular delivery of functional components.

3. Daily Stand-ups: Enhancing Communication

Daily stand-up meetings, or scrum meetings, provide a platform for team members to discuss progress, challenges, and goals. These brief, focused sessions foster communication and collaboration.

 

V. FAQs About Agile Project Management

Q1: How Does Agile Project Management Differ From Traditional Approaches?

Agile differs by prioritizing adaptability, collaboration, and customer satisfaction over rigid plans. It welcomes changes throughout the project and encourages continuous delivery of value.

Q2: Is Agile Project Management Suitable for All Types of Projects?

While Agile is versatile, its suitability depends on project characteristics. It is highly effective for projects with evolving requirements, complex problem-solving, and a need for regular client feedback.

Q3: How Do Agile Teams Handle Changing Client Requirements?

Agile teams address changing client requirements through continuous communication and flexibility. The iterative nature of Agile allows teams to adapt and adjust project priorities as needed.

Q4: What Are the Common Challenges in Adopting Agile Project Management?

Challenges may include resistance to change, difficulty in transitioning from traditional methods, and the need for a cultural shift within the organization. However, these challenges can be addressed through proper training and change management.

Q5: Can Agile Principles Be Applied Outside of Software Development?

Absolutely. While Agile originated in software development, its principles can be applied to various industries, including marketing, product development, and even non-profit initiatives. The focus on collaboration, adaptability, and value delivery is universally applicable.

 

VI. Conclusion: Navigating Project Flexibility with Agile

In the realm of project management, mastering the basics of Agile is synonymous with embracing adaptability and collaboration. Agile Project Management provides a framework that aligns with the evolving needs of today’s dynamic projects. Whether you’re a seasoned project manager or new to the field, understanding these essentials is the key to navigating the complexities and unlocking the full potential of Agile methodologies in your projects.

The Relevance of Mobile App Development for Businesses

Mobile app development is more relevant and important than ever for businesses of all sizes in the current digital era. Our daily lives and how we engage with the world around us have been completely transformed by the introduction of smartphones and the explosive expansion of mobile technology. Mobile applications have permeated every aspect of our everyday life, from productivity and shopping to communication and pleasure.

Let’s explore the significance of application development for businesses, the specialists required for developing mobile applications, the typical cost of hiring such specialists, where to find a mobile app development team, what factors to take into account when choosing them, the potential for outsourcing application to a development team, and the benefits of outsourcing.

 

Why is App Development Important for Business?

For businesses, the creation of mobile apps offers a variety of advantages and opportunities that help them grow their consumer bases and remain competitive. A survey conducted by Clutch revealed that 42% of small businesses already have a mobile app, while 30% are planning to build one in the future, indicating the growing adoption of app development teams across various industries. For the following reasons, developing apps is essential for businesses:

 

A well-designed mobile app enables businesses to interact and engage with their consumers more personally.

 

  1. Increased Customer Engagement. Apps may greatly increase consumer engagement and loyalty by offering useful features, smooth user experiences, and tailored content.

 

  1. Increased Brand Visibility: Creating a mobile app gives companies a dedicated platform to promote their goods, services, and brand identity. The user’s smartphone now has the app icon, which acts as a continual reminder of the brand, boosting exposure and brand familiarity.

 

  1. Improved Customer help: By providing features like chatbots, in-app messaging, and self-help choices, mobile applications may simplify and enhance customer service. These features allow organizations to help customers quickly and effectively, enhancing their pleasure and loyalty.

 

  1. Increased Sales and income: Customers may make purchases using mobile applications in a simple and secure manner, increasing sales and income streams for enterprises. Additional incentives for clients and repeat business can be provided through in-app purchases, mobile payments, and loyalty programs.

 

  1. Competitive Advantage: Having a mobile app may provide firms a competitive edge in today’s congested industry. It demonstrates an innovative mindset, a dedication to satisfying client demands, and a forward-thinking attitude. A well-made, feature-rich app may draw in new users and set a company apart from its rivals.

 

Specialists Needed for Mobile Application Development and Average Cost of Hiring

Source: Sigmund. Unsplash

 

A group of qualified experts with a range of specialties is needed to develop a mobile app. Following are some of the major positions in mobile app development team and their respective typical salaries:

 

  1. Project manager: Plans and organizes the development team, oversees the whole app development process. A project manager typically costs between $60,000 and $100,000 per year to hire.

 

  1. UI/UX Designer: Develops user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing interfaces. The typical annual salary for a UI/UX designer in a good development team is between $40,000 and $90,000.

 

  1. Writes the code and creates the software for particular platforms (such as iOS, Android, etc.). Depending on experience and competence, hiring a mobile app developer might cost anywhere between $50,000 and $120,000 annually.

 

  1. Quality Assurance (QA) Tester: Verifies that the program runs without hiccups and finds any defects or problems. A QA tester typically costs between $40,000 and $80,000 per year to hire.

 

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Where to Look for Specialists and What to Consider When Selecting Them

There are several options to consider while looking for experts in mobile app development. Here are a few possibilities:

 

  1. In-House Hiring: By advertising job vacancies on appropriate sites, holding interviews, and evaluating candidates’ credentials and experience, you may hire specialists directly.

 

  1. Independent contractors and freelancers: Websites like Upwork, Freelancer, and Toptal give users access to a large pool of qualified experts who may work on a project-by-project basis.

 

  1. Business Networks:

 

Leveraging professional networks may be quite helpful when trying to identify experts for mobile app development team. When choosing professionals, keep the following things in mind:

– Look for appropriate experience: Verify that the professionals you are considering have expertise creating mobile applications and have the abilities required for your particular project needs.

– Examine portfolios and references: Look into their prior work and contact references or clients for testimonials. You may learn more about the caliber of their work and their capacity for success from this.

– Evaluate your teamwork and communication abilities. Successful app development depends on strong teamwork and communication. Look for experts that can clearly convey ideas, comprehend your vision, and function well in a development team.

– Technical proficiency: Examine the specialists’ technical proficiency by gauging their familiarity with the frameworks, programming languages, and tools used in the creation of mobile apps.

– Cultural fit: Take into account how well the professionals fit into your company’s culture. A more efficient development process may be achieved by creating a good working connection and adhering to the ideals of your firm.

 

Outsourcing Application Development and the Advantages of Outsourcing

Businesses also have the option to outsource their application development in addition to recruiting professionals inside. There are a number of advantages to outsourcing, including:

 

  1. Cost-effectiveness: Compared to recruiting an internal workforce, outsourcing is frequently more affordable. It does away with the need for office space, equipment, perks, and recruitment expenditures. You may also benefit from the experience of experts from nations with reduced labor expenses through outsourcing.

 

  1. Gaining access to specialized skills: By outsourcing, you may tap into a vast talent pool. Making sure you discover the best experts for your project, you may pick from a large choice of specialists with a variety of skill sets and knowledge.

 

  1. Outsourcing saves you time by letting professionals handle the development process while you concentrate on your main company operations. Time is saved, and the job may be finished more quickly.

 

  1. Scalability and flexibility: Outsourcing allows you to manage your app development demands with scalability and flexibility. The development team size may be readily increased or decreased to meet project objectives, guaranteeing efficient resource use.

 

  1. Shorter time to market: Outsourcing can hasten the design phase. Your software may be released more quickly and you’ll have an advantage over competitors if you have a committed staff working on it.

 

Conclusion

In today’s digital environment, the success of enterprises depends greatly on mobile app development. It provides better brand recognition, better customer service, higher sales and income, and a competitive edge. It also increases customer engagement. It’s crucial to select the best professionals, taking into account their credentials, experience, and cultural fit, in order to create a successful mobile app. Specialists can be found through internal employment, independent contractors, and business networks. As an alternative, contracting out the development of apps offers cost efficiency, access to specialized expertise, time savings, scalability, and a quicker time to market.

Businesses may use the power of mobile technology to propel growth and success by recognizing the importance of mobile app development and making smart choices regarding expertise and outsourcing.

From Waterfall Walls to Agile Architecture: The New Era of Construction

This is a collaborative article cowritten by Lucas Marshall and Jason Braun.

 

Productivity is hard to measure. It differs depending on industry, for one. What’s more, the construction sector is what the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics at the University of Chicago considers “strange and awful,” representative of raw BEA data suggesting “that the value added per worker in the construction sector was about 40 percent lower in 2020 than in 1970.” For instance, the construction of the One World Trade Center in New York faced numerous delays and budget overruns, highlighting the challenges the industry faces. Labor shortages—whose “impacts on labor wages, cost overruns, and scheduling concerns in construction projects”—could be the driving factor here as companies struggle to fill positions while unemployment remains low. In other words, “few construction workers [are] seeking jobs, and therefore the pool to fill demand is shallow,” while onsite workers face the unique challenge of executing projects with limited resources—adding to these impacts and slowing growth.

 

At first glance, the worlds of software development and construction may seem poles apart. However, both industries grapple with the complexities of managing large-scale projects, ensuring timely delivery, and adapting to unforeseen challenges. For example, the development of the Windows 95 operating system was a monumental task for Microsoft, much like constructing a skyscraper is for a construction firm. Just as software developers transitioned from the rigid Waterfall methodology to the more adaptive Agile approach to address these challenges, the construction industry stands at a similar crossroads.

 

While it may seem alien to the construction sector, the software industry has subbed one framework (i.e., waterfall) for another (agile), resulting in success ratios two times greater, 37% faster delivery, and greater impact on improving product quality, a 2023 scholarly study found. Popular apps like Spotify and Airbnb have notably benefited from Agile methodologies, iterating rapidly based on user feedback.

 

In this article, we propose applying similar agile and lean construction methodologies illustrative of industrialized construction. Like software—which replaces a rigid, monolithic release cycle with a more agile framework—we explain that industrialized construction looks to replace the old-school, one-off “project” mindset with a fast and dependable productization framework. Consider the construction of modular homes, which are built offsite in controlled environments and then assembled on-site, mirroring the iterative development and deployment in software.

 

Software Project Management: From Waterfall to Agile

Companies in the software industry generally use one of two frameworks when building software products:

 

Waterfall

Waterfall is a more traditional approach to software development where production takes place in a linear, sequential manner (i.e., every task needs to be finished before the next one begins). This means new software solutions begin by defining requirements, then shifting into the software design phase, then shifting to the software developers building what has been proposed, then verifying the release is stable, and finally shifting into maintenance (i.e., finding and squashing bugs). For instance, the early development of Microsoft Office followed a Waterfall approach, with distinct phases and milestones.

 

Key point: Like construction projects that oftentimes involve a considerable deal of back-and-forth with approvals before breaking ground, then contend with unpredictable access to onsite labor and materials as well as rapidly changing weather conditions, we’ll argue later that construction is due for breaking from the waterfall-like processes through industrialization.

 

Agile

Agile is an iterative, team-based approach to software development where rapid delivery of functional products over a short period of time (known as sprints) is used (similar to lean manufacturing methods applied to construction). Continuous improvement is adopted, and subsequent batches are planned in cyclical schedules. Tech giants like Google and Facebook have adopted Agile methodologies for many of their projects, allowing for rapid iteration and improvement based on user feedback.

 

Agile methodology is more collaborative and customer-focused. Oftentimes, customers have the opportunity to offer their feedback through the software development process (e.g., beta releases). Through this approach, developers can improve the overall functionality of the software for the target end user and establish a 1-1 relationship based in trust and mutual respect. It also offers a fixed, predictable schedule and delivery, improved quality for customers through their hands-on participation, as well as adaptability through change.

 

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From One-Off Projects to Finished Goods through Industrialized Construction

Industrialized construction (IC) refers to “the process through which construction aims to improve productivity through increased mechanization and automation,” similar to how Ford’s early assembly line offered the mechanized approach necessary to meet the demands of customers for the Model-T while ensuring product consistency and quality through mechanized orchestration.

 

The mention of Ford’s Model-T isn’t merely a nostalgic nod to the past but a pivotal example of industrial transformation. In the early 20th century, the automobile industry faced challenges similar to today’s construction sector: Inefficiencies, inconsistencies, and a demand that outpaced supply. Ford’s introduction of the assembly line for the Model-T revolutionized production, offering a standardized, efficient, and scalable solution.

 

At a high-level, industrialized construction as a concept moves beyond approaching each build as one-off projects. Instead, practitioners apply a foundational framework where building deliverables are treated as building products and the same attention to build quality, customer satisfaction, and continuous improvement seen from manufacturers of marketable finished goods (e.g., automobiles, electronic devices, perishable goods, etc.) is applied to construction. A real-world example can be seen in the rise of prefabricated homes, which are built in factories and then assembled onsite, ensuring consistent quality and faster construction times.

 

The traditional approach to construction, as we highlighted earlier, comes with its set of challenges. For instance, 45% of all construction projects face disruptions due to inclement weather. A staggering 93% of construction firms grapple with material shortages. Furthermore, the limited access to skilled workers, a point we touched upon earlier, restricts the efficiency of an onsite workforce, especially under tight deadlines. This can jeopardize schedules, budgets, and even the quality of work.

 

For instance, the construction of the Berlin Brandenburg Airport faced numerous delays due to planning and execution challenges, showcasing the need for a more streamlined approach.

 

The transition towards Industrialized Construction isn’t just a theoretical proposition; it has tangible, real-world implications that can redefine the construction landscape. For starters, IC can lead to significant cost savings. By shifting much of the construction process to controlled environments, we can mitigate the risks and uncertainties of on-site construction, from weather disruptions to labor shortages. This not only ensures projects stay on budget but also can lead to faster completion times. For example, the Broad Sustainable Building company in China constructed a 57-story skyscraper in just 19 days using prefabricated modules, showcasing the potential of IC.

 

Industrialized construction, meanwhile, looks to improve quality by affecting factors within a business’s control:

  • Third-party prefabrication and offsite construction partners or building out your own infrastructure to support offsite preassembly can improve schedule certainty by 90%, while cutting down on construction costs by 10% and improving quality by mechanizing the preassembly process in a temperature-controlled factory setting where stringent quality measures can be enforced.
  • Robotics and additive manufacturing technology to increase output, capabilities, and design freedom of human installers; smart tools and IoT solutions in the hands of these installers, meanwhile, can further assist in performing installations more safely with reporting/quality verifiability. For instance, the use of drones in construction sites for surveying and monitoring has become increasingly common, providing real-time data and insights.
  • Building information modeling (BIM) can help construction professionals and stakeholders (e.g., customers, inspectors) collaborate virtually, envisioning finished products in their natural environment while improving the 1-1 relationship and trust through construction projects similar to how earlier discussed software teams run beta tests. The construction of the Shanghai Tower, for example, heavily relied on BIM for its design and execution.
  • A wealth of data via digital twins (e.g., real-time inventory data, predictive analytics, data synchronization to remove information silos, etc.) can help professionals manage projects with more certainty and deliver data-driven insights to drive proactive decision-making and quality.

 

In the broader discourse on project management methodologies, Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez’s article, “It’s Time to End the Battle Between Waterfall and Agile,” offers a compelling perspective. Nieto-Rodriguez critiques the rigid dichotomy many project leaders maintain between Waterfall and Agile, suggesting that such binary thinking has fostered tribalism within the project community, stifling innovation and potential. This tribal mindset has even led entire organizations to “go agile,” often at the expense of sidelining the foundational principles of traditional methodologies that certain projects might still benefit from. The real-world implications of this divisive approach can result in tangible losses for organizations. Nieto-Rodriguez advocates for a more nuanced approach: hybrid project management methodologies. By merging the meticulous planning of Waterfall with the adaptability of Agile, these hybrid methods can address the shortcomings of a one-size-fits-all strategy. Such an approach not only bridges the divide between the two methodologies but also paves the way for more effective and innovative project outcomes.

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

 

Bottom Line

The construction industry and its fragmented ecosystem is in desperate need of industry-governing interoperability where critical project data is shared in real-time, enabling collaboration and a nimble building process adaptive to change.

 

As project managers in our industry look to the software industry for ways to improve quality, one conclusion they may come to is breaking away from the monolithic, waterfall delivery methods. Instead, they may implement an agile framework and industrialization of processes that facilitate the same increased output and uncompromised product quality that allowed the iconic Model-T to roll off the production line and meet customer demands.

 


About Authors

Jason Braun is the author of Designing Context-Rich Learning by Extending Reality and an educator with over a decade of producing, delivering, and promoting critically acclaimed multimedia learning experiences. Recognized for collaborating effectively with programmers to create educational software featured in The Chronicle of Higher Education and with subject matter experts like New York Times best-selling authors and FBI cybersecurity agents.

‘Delay Thinking’ Is a Project Success Factor

Often, it is better to spend more time than it is to speed to meet a deadline. Fast is good but not always. When rushing to get something done the probability of causing damage is high.

 

Delay Thinking

Delay thinking recognizes that there is a delay or lag between an action and its effect. Peter Senge in The Fifth Discipline says that “Delays can make you badly overshoot your mark, or they can have a positive effect if you recognize them and work with them.”

Figure 1 below is a diagram that explains the delay phenomena, he gives the example of the delay between the time you adjust the water temperature in the shower and the time the water reaches the desired temperature. If you understand the delay, you will make sure you don’t get doused in cold water or make the mistake of further turning up the hot.

Figure 1: Delayed Results[1]

What Does This Have to Do with Projects?

In both projects and operations, we make and act upon decisions. We set expectations among stakeholders about outcomes. We are expected to fix problems and do it fast.

Faced with problems we may seek quick fixes by applying solutions that worked in the past or in other organizations. We can be pressured into rushing ahead without doing the due diligence of assessing causes, multiple scenarios, and the impact of differences between the current situation and the ones in which a solution worked in the past.

In time bound projects, there is a tendency to overlook likely delays. For example, underestimating the time it takes to perform predecessor tasks when scheduling resources. The result is the cost of resources sitting idle while waiting for the results they need to proceed.

When we take delays into consideration expectations are realistic and problem resolutions end up making things better rather than worse.

 

Learning Curves and Change Management

For example, when a large organization implemented a system to reduce the effort of field managers by applying AI to automate their ordering process, they failed to recognize the delay caused by a combination of learning curves, manager resistance to a perceived loss of authority and autonomy, and the need to fine-tune the algorithm used to make ordering decisions. The result was avoidable chaos, supply chain disruption, and degraded performance. The new system was rejected.

The outcome would have been a far happier one had the project plan included a robust training process, “marketing,” and a calibration period with an incremental system rollout rather than a “big bang” implementation. All of these are “delays” that on the surface cause the project to run longer. Though more often than not, when looking below the surface these so-called delays save time, effort, money and reduce unnecessary stress.

 

Causes

What might cause failure to include delays in plans?

Everything has a cause and when we discover causes, we can better avoid repeating failures and making poor choices.

One predominant cause of this failure to consider delays is rushing to get a project completed in a certain time frame. The pressure to get your project done by a fixed date may be driven by many things – the whim of a senior stakeholder, funding availability, the need for resources on other planned projects, legal restrictions, seasonal weather conditions, etc.

 

When a “get it done by” mandate is in play, pressure, and the anxiety it brings leads decision makers to cut corners, perhaps forgetting that spending more time planning can result in exponentially less time during the rest of the project. Pressure and anxiety also lead to applying quick fixes which overlook long term consequences.

Expediency bias operates even when there is no major pressure to hit a deadline. It is the tendency to prefer quick action over taking the time to make sure there is clarity and understanding about short and longer-term results.

During planning, rushing and expediency bias leads to only looking at one scenario instead of a few. Assessing multiple scenarios opens the decision to useful analysis. But this takes time. When rushing, talk about lags or delays is impatiently squelched. The risk of making a poor decision based on limited information is high.

 

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Quick Fixes – Short Term thinking

Another dimension of delay thinking is the recognition that when resolving a problem, while short-term fixes might remove symptoms there is a delay before the nature of longer-term consequences are experienced.

We are often blind to the long-term effects of short-term decisions and actions. When there is a lag between our action and its effect, we are easily driven by the satisfaction of short-term pleasure and immediate gratification.

Take the decision between eating a bowl of ice cream and a salad. If you are like me, the ice cream is far more pleasing than the salad. And, at the end of the day, you’d look and feel the same regardless of your choice. So why not go for the ice cream.

 

But factor in delay thinking and you get to see that if you repeatedly opt for the ice cream over the salad the delayed longer-term effects start to show – weight gain, digestive issues, increased blood sugar levels, etc.

Looking at the short and long-term effects makes your decision making more effective. You know what you are gaining and giving up when you make your choice. You can opt for ice cream sometimes, but you are more likely to moderate, assuming your goal is good health. You can remove symptoms with a quick fix, but you had better consider the longer term impact and plan for it.

 

Awareness

Awareness is the key.

 

Being aware that delays are normal parts of experience makes it likely that we will consider them when making decisions and planning projects. Knowledge of the specific delays in your project comes from analysis and experience, your own and your institution’s.

Be aware of rushing and expediency bias and the power of spending more time in planning to playout various scenarios, consider delays and delayed effects, and cause removal vs. symptom removal options and their effects.

Think of what happens when you drop a stone into a pond of still water. Be aware that every action you take has a ripple effect and that the ripples appear over time, radiating in all directions.

 

[1] Senge, Peter, The Fifth Discipline, Doubleday, NY, 1990 p. 90