Why work should be reframed as projects


May 27, 2019 / Productivity / Greg Atkinson

Job stability is a very good thing. But job stagnation is very bad indeed. To prevent routine and boredom from affecting staff morale and productivity, employers should consider reframing work in terms of projects. Instead of seeing employment as a marathon without end, projects encourage employees to put in maximum effort for short sprints. This Agile-style practice can give both employers and employees many benefits. These include:

1) Defined project period

Time is money, as they say.

Research has shown that setting aside a predetermined amount of time to get something done is excellent for productivity. It works for keeping meetings from running overtime. It works for procrastinators struggling to get work done. And it works for employees who have a predetermined goal to work towards.

Having a set start and end time within which to finish tasks forces the individual to focus for that amount of time. Distractions are blocked out because the person knows they only have a limited amount of time to get everything done. Instead of being overwhelmed by secondary tasks or never ending ‘emergencies’, these can be set aside in favour of the primary project task. The project objective is thus prioritised. Having a clear priority, and a set time limit within which to achieve it, are extremely effective productivity hacks.

2)   Project purpose made clear

Clearly define what is expected of the project.

As our blogs ‘5 things employees want that’s not money’ and ‘From Friedman to Fink: why profit is no longer purpose’ make clear, a company must have a higher purpose to succeed. Companies who exist solely for the sake of profit will find enthusiasm diminish from both their internal stakeholders and customers. A company’s stated purpose could be ‘becoming the earth’s most customer-centric company’, or ‘to enrich people’s lives with programmes and services that inform, educate, and entertain’, or ‘to help bring creative projects to life’ or any other highly laudable effort to improve society or effect change in the world.

To help companies achieve their purpose, project outcomes should be aligned to it. Employees should be made aware of how their everyday work contributes to the greater whole. Instead of seeing work as an end in itself (a very difficult thing to do if the work is monotonous or done divorced from any sense of how it is contributing), the person must know where their work fits in. Purpose gives work meaning to 83% of employees, according to PWC. It also energises 53% of employees. So, instead of letting employees wallow in a sea of ‘pointless’ admin, giving them projects with clear objectives that align with the company’s higher purpose will give tasks so much more meaning.   

3) Dynamic teams

forming project teams
By working in project task teams, employees will have the chance to work with different people.

Regardless of the size of the company, employees are unlikely to be able to work with everyone. In fact, individuals are likely to work closely with the same people all the time – never having the chance to experience different personalities or learn from different experts. By creating task teams for each project, employers can mix-and-match employees, so they get to know more people.

Employers can use Kalido to surface secondary, hidden, or newly acquired skills that were not stated on employees’ original CVs. They can then create networks for each respective project, so members can keep all their relevant team mates in one place, and check out each others’ profiles (with full skill sets, interests, and affiliations). Network administrators can broadcast messages to all members so everyone is kept in the loop. Free chats and calls make coordinating and following-up cheap, quick, and convenient.

By working in project task teams, employees will have the chance to work with different people at different times, creating a much richer social experience.

4) Rotating project leaders

project teams
Give everyone a chance to lead.

One of the important tenets of Agile is its insistence on a democratic, linear corporate culture. This thinking can be extended to projects.

Different employees can be appointed project leaders, giving more people the opportunity to learn and improve leadership skills. Even junior employees should be given this responsibility. This prepares them for bigger future responsibilities. Supervisors will be on hand for guidance and support, though they’ll be normal team members for the duration of the project. Rotating leadership means juniors will have a better understanding of what it takes to manage people, and gain newfound respect for what their supervisors do. Supervisors can also see how different people lead, and may also learn a thing or two themselves.  

5) Different work routines

remote project teams
The workforce is more mobile than ever before. Embrace it.

A strict 8-5 may not work for everyone. Night owls, parents with children to ferry to different schools every morning, people who prefer to exercise in the morning, or people who are more productive in the afternoon are just a few who spring to mind. Along with dynamic teams and rotating project leaders, teams can be given more freedom to decide their working conditions.

Some teams may choose to work from home a few days a week. Some may choose to work individually in the morning and gather for brainstorms and reporting sessions in the afternoon. Some teams may want to work at a coffee shop, others may prefer the garden, still others will be more productive in the conference room. As long as the project objective is clearly defined, and a clear deadline agreed to, employees can be given more freedom to work when and where it suits them. This is also very helpful in combating routine and boredom.   

6) Project-based remuneration

performance based pay
Is there an opportunity to reward on performance and project completion?

An additional perk could be considered if employers see project-based work yielding good results. This is project-based remuneration. Junior employees who perform well as project leaders could be given a bonus, for example. Likewise teams who deliver excellent results within the defined project period. Or employees who come up with creative solutions or new ideas during the course of the project.

Although more money is no longer the most important motivator for the modern employee, combined with personal freedom and responsibility, and achieving a sense of purpose – it is certainly a welcome reward.

As we discuss in our blog ‘Is your career stagnating?’, not doing anything different, not being challenged, not learning anything new, not striving for any goals, and not finding joy in anything, are leading causes of work stagnation. Reframing work as projects combats all of these. It can help employees find new joy in their work, and help employers find freshly motivated and productive staff.