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Are you a Project Manager or an Administrative Assistant?  

By Skye Dodd 25 Jun 2024
Are you a Project Manager or an Administrative Assistant?  

Depending on your company's size, project scale, or project types, your role may involve numerous administrative duties. For instance, in my experience, managing projects often entails tasks such as scheduling meetings, corresponding with stakeholders, maintaining project documentation, and configuring stakeholder software. This scenario is not uncommon. However, what happens when your Project Manager role morphs into more of an Administrative Assistant role? 

First, I'll share why this topic is important.  

Next, I will outline how to assess how much time you're spending on administrative duties.  

Then, I will share some ways to evaluate your colleagues' understanding of professional project management.  

Last, I will provide some tips for how to become more PM and less admin!  

Why is This Topic Crucial?

Well, if you're a project manager, you likely understand the critical role that project management tools and techniques play in achieving project objectives. Have you ever found yourself plunged into a seemingly straightforward project, thinking, "We don't need a stakeholder management plan. There are only ten stakeholders and a 3-month timeline. It can't be that challenging"? Yet, chaos ensues due to a lack of preparation. We've all been there. Effective project planning requires depth, finesse, and thoroughness. The more comprehensive our planning upfront, the smoother the project unfolds. But it doesn't end there. The more we are able to monitor our project plans throughout the project to ensure no deviation, the better. That's why this topic is key. If we spend too much time on administrative duties, our project scope, budget, and schedule are all at risk. Have you included this in your risk registers? I bet it will be moving forward!  

How Much Time Are You Spending on Administrative Duties?

So, what is too much time to be spending on administrative duties? One way to conduct this assessment is simply to pull data from your project management software. Most recently, I have been using Asana to track tasks. Asana allows you to put tasks into categories such as 'administration'. Task categories are completely customisable to what's most important to your company's goals and portfolio. If your data reflects that you're spending 50% or more of your time on administrative tasks, chances are your team could use a change. Another way to assess if you're spending too much time on administrative tasks is if your project plans are either not being managed at the cadence set in the plan or if you don't even have the time to establish, let alone maintain, project plans. 

Evaluating Your Colleagues’ Understanding of Professional Project Management

If you feel like you might be spending too much time on administrative work based on the criteria I mentioned above, it's time to evaluate your colleagues' understanding of professional project management. This can be done in a variety of ways, such as surveys, interviews, self-assessments, observations, and feedback loops. Depending on your role, responsibilities, and tenure, some of these ideas may be appropriate, while others may be out of reach. We need to be thoughtful, intentional, and flexible with our approach. My favourite approach to utilise from the list above is interviews because the purpose can be discreet. Setting 1:1 time with your leaders is a great time to ask about their day-to-day personal processes and any PM tools or techniques they favour. Simply asking, "What does project management mean to you?" is a great way to start! Observation during recurring meetings provides a natural option in almost any scenario! This will allow you to gauge your teams' understanding while minimising judgment or discomfort.  

Tips on How to Become More of a PM

project manager illustration

Once you have a good grasp of your colleagues' understanding of professional project management, you can begin strategising coaching efforts. Coaching can happen in a variety of ways. Simply taking the opportunity in your 1:1's or recurring meetings to provide tips or tricks to overcome internal pain points by utilising project management tools and techniques is a great start. Consistency is crucial in coaching; you are offering continual support and knowledge. Aim to become the Project Management Subject Matter Expert (SME) within your organisation. Envision what change will look like for your project team by asking yourself questions like What tools are missing from our processes? What technologies can we lean into to do some of these admin tasks? What tools will add the most value to this team first? Identify missing tools or technologies to streamline administrative tasks, ensuring your efforts add value without burdening the team with additional tasks. Articulate this vision to leadership and secure their buy-in! Top-down support is important to momentum. 

Remember, change takes time. Keep your vision alive, continue coaching, and address peers' and stakeholders' concerns to gain buy-in. Upskill yourself as needed. Best of luck in minimising administrative tasks and maximising the implementation of project management tools and techniques!