Whether your team is dedicated to your project or spread over multiple projects, you’ll find times when their workload becomes unmanageable. This happens in the execution phase no matter how diligent you were in the planning phase to get reasonable estimates of work.
When it comes to doing the actual work, things happen and those things affect your project. When your team is overloaded, they may not come to you for help.
What do you see happening?
Like many challenges in your project, the first sign something is going awry is silence; people stop talking. People stop returning your calls when you check in because they are busy trying to catch up.
Deadlines keep backing up and it looks like you have a bottleneck in the schedule. Even if only one person is overcapacity, they will have an impact on the downstream activities – a jargony way of saying the activities that come after them in the plan.
At worse, people start getting sick. Overload usually equals stress. Stress often equals sickness.
How can you resolve it beyond treating symptoms?
This challenge can be resolved by treating the symptoms. And by treating early, you can usually avoid the worst-case occurring.
When someone on your team seems to be avoiding you, take it as an encouragement to try harder. Try to drop by their desk if they are nearby. Leave messages asking for a quick call back, so they know you won’t take too much of their time.
If you are successful, you can help. Most projects have a little leeway in the schedule and as the PM, you only manage the leeway if you know who needs help. By letting others slip their delivery dates, you are letting them control the project.
A final thought:
I have a saying I use – We knew it was going to be hard, and now it’s hard.
Even when you know it’s coming, a hectic part of the schedule is still hard on the team. Remember to acknowledge the effort people are putting in. Try to find a way to celebrate passing the milestone when the pressure is off.