Time Tracking in Project Management (Part 2): Three tips on how to create acceptance

Kathrin Jungwirth, Thursday 20 February 2020 | Reading time: 4 min.

Properly used, time tracking can improve planning and resource allocation in projects. With our three tips, you will create more acceptance for time tracking in projects and you will lay the foundation for process optimization in future projects. 

In the first article of this series we came to the conclusion that time tracking should be understood and used as a tool to improve planning and resource allocation in projects. Time tracking helps to identify those projects that generate extra work compared to the planned effort. 

How can executives now credibly communicate this approach? First, say goodbye to these opinions: 

  • High effort means inefficiency.
  • Less effort means good performance.

These two assumptions are the reasons why time tracking is strongly discussed. Think about the implications: If an employee needs more time than originally planned for the completion of his or her tasks, you would automatically classify the employee as lazy. By implication, you would associate fast work with good work. However, time tracking in project management should not and cannot be used to check attendance, nor can it be the basis for assessing performance.

Tip 1: Tracked effort requires project context

To avoid this trap, connect the recorded effort to the relevant task context or to the corresponding project context. As a result, you will reduce the complexity of target-actual comperisons. Your focus shifts from the superficial result of time recording to the reasons for too much or too little actual effort. 

  • Has the ongoing project been blown-up by adding additional tasks?
  • Does the daily business already take up a large part of the working time? Which means there won't enough time left for actually fulfilling all the project tasks. 

You will discover those reasons only by talking to your employees. In a conversation they can easily explain to you why the estimated time for a task wasn't enough.  

Tip 2: Use this knowledge to improve future planning

It's important to explain that time tracking should help to determine as accurately as possible which planning steps of a project have been delayed. Also the reasons for the delay should never be ignored. In addition it is good to know in which phase of the project additional rescources would have been necessary. From those findings, you and your team can easily derive recommendations for future projects. 

Please note that it is not very authentic when a manager asks employees to track their time, but doesn't derive any findings and improvements for the future from the data. 

Tip 3: As a supervisor it's your job to set a good example

As soon as your employees consistently track their efforts to tasks and projects, it will become clear which processes need to be improved or abolished. Also to the supervisor a mirror is held up and may reveal where planning, resource distribution and control are lacking.

Try to react in the same way as you expect your employees to react in this situation: with an open view for optimization. Don't forget that as a manager it is important to be a good example for your employees. Thereby you may also reduce their fear of time tracking. 

Learn more about time tracking in projects:

Originally published in German: Zeiterfassung im Projekt: So schaffen Sie Akzeptanz im Team

Author: Carola Moresche

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