Projects and Distractions

Cell phones and Laptops, Tools – or the Distraction to Success

Ever think your not getting the most out of your team due to distraction.  The greatest invention perhaps is the smart phone.  Now it is easy to check all of our email accounts, text message our friends, post on Facebook, blurt on Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, and best of all, play those seemingly innocuous games.  Oh and we should not forget that we can actually us it as a phone.

Many organizations issue laptops to their employees.  Laptops go with employee everywhere the employ goes.  That can be an efficient and certainly a convenient thing.  However, when meetings are via distance, and there is no video, we can’t see our people “multitasking” through the meeting or discussion.  “I apologize, I had my microphone on mute” can be the cover for trying to get oriented to the discussion.  Multitasking seems like we are accomplishing more but we may not be. In fact, there are downsides to this way of working.  We may find we have many actions partially underway with few concluded, the lack of progress can have a serious impact upon motivation.

Distributed Teams and Communications

In conference call meetings without video, we run this risk of multitasking essentially eroding any possible performance objective.  Consider document or specification reviews conducted virtually – as the members are reading emails or working on other tasks for other projects.   Even if you have the right people in the right place, the focus upon the task is vitally important to success and the PM must be aware of these distractions.  This problem is not just for virtual teams though experience suggests that it is quite pervasive there.

Project Team Interaction

Direct interaction with the other team members makes it more difficult to ignore or allow your time divided due to distractions.  The closer the connection to the other team members, perhaps the more difficult it is to disappoint them.  Our team behavior rules may have aspects that restrict these tools.  Peer pressure when seeing the seeming inattentiveness from a team member can help.  As our group of people assigned to the project work together, we will want to find ways to turn them into a team.  How we handle these distractions sets the stage for our team’s development by defining the expected behavior from the individuals.

Studies Say…

We lose considerable productivity in task switching or attempting to multitask. We can use our team to establish norms for behavior that will help keep these in check.  We can also make sure our team is less distracted by keeping focus on the prioritized tasks, no matter how many projects the individuals or the project members may be undertaking.  I submit that one of the biggest positive impacts from a agile method of managing projects is the hyper focus on the immediate and the reiteration of that throughout the project.


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