Ad hoc project management skills are required in any company that is growing and which has ad hoc workflows or must do tasks or projects arise that need to be completed in a timely fashion. Fortunately or unfortunately every experienced project manager has experienced Ad-hoc workflows popup in their regular project cycles especially when — things are running along smoothly in your workflow and then suddenly receive an email with the subject: “URGENT — need ASAP.” And just like that, an ad-hoc project becomes a top priority and falls directly into your lap.
Ad-hoc projects or requests are unexpected and can catch you off guard. When you have your through-the-years-perfected process to follow around scope requests, work structures, financial analysis, risk assessment, and everything else in your pipeline, a last-minute request can feel like a little storm raining on your parade that derails you from that process.
When not handled correctly, ad-hoc requests can derail team productivity and send them on a wild goose chase to complete every task on their list, regardless of order or priority. While these kinds of projects are inevitable and, most times, necessary, it’s crucial to understand that working on too many things at the same time or having unclear priorities is a critical factor in decreased productivity and efficiency.
Ad-hoc projects can be challenging for a number of reasons, including restraints on time, resources, or impact. This might take your focus away from larger issues at hand, forcing you to rush and deal with these urgent requests.
1. Ad-hoc Time Restraints
When someone places an ad-hoc request, they usually want it done yesterday, or even better — last week. When you already have an established workflow for an existing project, it can be challenging to analyze and confirm a new timeline for a request or fit it into a current timeline that already has clear timelines and dependencies.
2. Lack of Resources
Another challenge of ad-hoc requests is a lack of resources, whether that’s financial or personnel, to deal with the project. This is why it is so important to do the right process for business forecasting, reserve budgets for planned activities, but reserve for Ad-Hoc opportunities that make sense. Whether that’s finding an increased budget to complete it or finding the right people to handle the task, ad-hoc projects can put a project manager into a bind while they figure everything out. All resources are probably fully allocated to other projects, so project managers might have to scramble to put everything in place.
3. Smaller Impact
Ad-hoc projects also tend to have a more localized impact than fully fleshed out projects. While they might be smaller in scale, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re less important. They’re usually focused on a specific goal that may or may not feed into the larger picture.
Even with these challenges, it’s a project manager’s job to anticipate and manage the unexpected. Since you’re expected to act as your team’s buffer, it’s essential to put a plan into place to deal with these kinds of requests. Trial and error lead to better preparation, and so here are some best practices that we’ve learned from dealing with ad-hoc projects.
4. Stay Flexible
Flexibility is vital when dealing with a shortened timeline and fewer resources. In this situation, Agile project management, a style that prioritizes flexibility and iteration, could be the best choice as opposed to the Waterfall style — a more traditional technique and structured process that requires more planning. An agile approach reinforces communication and collaboration, which will benefit your team while reducing bottlenecks.
5. Prioritize Risk for Ad hoc Projects
Tracking risk is one of a project manager’s primary responsibilities, and this becomes even more true on an ad-hoc project that might not have undergone a full risk assessment. One way to keep things moving along is to anticipate weaknesses or vulnerabilities. It can be time-consuming to conduct a full risk assessment, so keep it targeted to risks in project value — the ones that present both high probability and high impact. If a risk doesn’t appear to fall in either of those two categories, note it and keep moving forward.
6. Be Transparent with Ad hoc Workflows
Transparent communication is genuinely beneficial to teams working on ad-hoc requests. Project managers should implement more frequent team updates to promote increased accountability. When everyone knows who is responsible for what, it drives efficiency and saves time. Transparent communication also adds context to a project, which connects people to the full meaning of their work. This transparency, in turn, drives value and engagement among team members.
7. Work Efficiently in Ad hoc Project Management
And of course, if you receive an ad-hoc project or request, create a plan to work more efficiently. A cloud-based software such as Nifty can help all of your team members get on the same page to allocate resources and information more effectively. Using project management software helps project managers visualize their team’s capacity while tracking hours worked on specific projects. It also aids project managers in redirecting time and attention away from less critical or less time-sensitive tasks to more urgent strategic initiatives. It also helps automate specific tasks, giving you back some precious time to allocate to any resource restrictions.
8. Formalize the Request Process for an Ad hoc Request
Many ad-hoc requests come by way of email or just the casual line of “So, I was hoping you could help me with this…”. These unofficial asks can add up and distract from time-sensitive projects. By formalizing the process, you’re adding more validity to incoming requests and can better assign and manage workloads. Having a centralized location that provides oversight on all projects and tasks while storing relevant information will go a long way towards maximizing efficiency and productivity. It also makes a project manager’s job easier by ensuring that they know exactly what’s going on at all times. Even if you didn’t have a formal system in place at the time of your most recent project request, implementing one now will save time and energy in the future.
By developing a plan for dealing with ad-hoc projects, you’re setting your team up to be more proactive instead of reactive, thereby enabling them to focus on the key strategic initiatives to drive the business forward. These plans empower project managers to support and manage their teams while preventing team burnout and confusion.
The sign of any great project manager is being able to handle whatever comes their way. By implementing an ad-hoc project management plan and utilizing the right software tools, you’re able to calmly juggle more projects to drive business growth and success.
Nifty is a project management software that focuses on empowering teams by driving communication, organization, and efficiency.
Try Nifty for free today and learn how your projects, both planned and ad-hoc, can be better executed and more productive.