In project management, there are two schools of thought on doling out tasks to team members—assign all tasks at the beginning of the project, or assign them as they come up in the project schedule. Each method has merits, along with some notable pitfalls. Here we examine both strategies to see what’s good about each, and where problems may lurk.
Assign at the beginning of the project
Benefits of this approach are felt at both the team and individual levels. Project professionals often feel they are better able to juggle tasks for multiple projects simultaneously when they can budget their time early in the process. From the team’s perspective, assigning tasks during the initial project phase may allow resources to be more efficiently managed across the overall project load. Possible downsides include increased susceptibility to delays, due to the unavailability of the person responsible for the task. If one individual gets behind, the effects may be magnified across the entire team.
Assign when the task is ready to begin
This strategy may enable PMOs to eliminate delays by leveraging available resources on a just-in-time basis, rather than wait for a specific individual to begin the task. It may also facilitate a generalist approach to project management by ensuring team members have opportunities to oversee a variety of tasks, rather than just those in their areas of expertise. Potential concerns include the delays that may occur if a task languishes before being assigned, and the unavailability of a team member suited for the task if there is a requirement for a specific skill set.
A team comprised of high performers could likely use either strategy successfully, assuming that some things—communication channels, stakeholder expectations, etc.—were well established and carefully managed. How have these approaches worked in your own experience?
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