Project Management

Yesterday I attended the AALL webinar “Get Your Strategic Plan Back On Track When It Goes Off the Rails” about effective strategic planning and project management presented by Pat Wagner. This subject has been on my mind a lot lately as I work on several long range projects with deadlines creeping up. These projects usually end up at the bottom of my priority list because so many things come up during the day with closer deadlines. It is easy to push those projects aside until the imaginary day when you suddenly have time.

As I listened, I smugly patted myself on the back as Wagner mentioned several things I already do but I quickly realized there were many areas where I fall short. Below is a combination of my advice and advice from the webinar.

So my first piece of advice for long range project plan is to have a plan. It sounds a little intense, but I was really intrigued by the idea of a department strategic plan that addresses how to carry out the library or institution plan. This plan would identify all department projects with specific deadlines, goals, and tools for evaluation. One tool that I have recently started using for project management that helps with this is a Gantt Chart. Gantt charts provide a visual of when certain steps in a project should be complete and the next begin. It can also reflect overlap and you can list individuals for each step.

Wagner also spent some time discussing both scorecards and accountability. A scorecard functions as sort of rubric for progress. This also allows you to hold yourself and others accountable for deadlines. One of the points reiterated several times was that at the end of the day someone needs to be responsible and accountable for a project. They should be able to make decisions and accept liability to ensure projects carry forward.

One thing I have realized is that long range project planning is difficult as a reference librarian. Our first priority is our patrons, and they are unpredictable. You never really know when a professor or student is going to need a time intensive project or even a short one that will change the shape of your day. We are also by nature helpful, and we rarely turn away projects that will directly or indirectly benefit our patrons, even when we are in over our heads. To plan, the best we can do is guess how much time we spend on reference services during a given period of time and use that as a base line. One of my goals for the reference plan going forward is to go through our reference statistics and see how much time we spend with reference and teaching services and add that to our plan. This will show us how many hours in a week we can expect to have left over for other projects. Then time should be parceled out each week for those projects.

In all of this though, don’t spend so much time planning that you are never doing. Keep it simple and easy to follow. Build in room for errors or changes along the way and be flexible.

Do you have any project management tips?

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One Response to Project Management

  1. At our library, we have been experimenting with using the free Web based project management software Asana.com so far it is helpful for reminding me where i am in projects. The major drawback is that you cannot plan things to be done at a specific time of day. Also, as you said, you never know when a “time intensive project” will come along, and disrupt your timeline.

    I try to prioritize the projects and when I am low on time, I push back the least important projects by a few months.

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