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How to deal with supporting other (not mine) projects?

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  • How to deal with supporting other (not mine) projects?

    I my professional life I have a handful of larger projects I deal with - and a number of smaller projects popping up now and then. These projects are fairly well defined when it comes to goals/outcomes, next actions and so on. Nicely structured and GTD'able (is that a word?).

    However there is also a messy part: I also provide support to some other projects. These are not my projects and often belong in other parts of the organization and have other owners. I become involved ad hoc, and my deliverables are of a somewhat dynamic nature and not listed in any project plan I have.

    I fail from time to time to deal with these support scenarios, as I do not have a consistent way of working with them. I tried to create projects in my system to create some structure on them, but the overall goals of these projects are not mine. And next actions have been tricky to define, as I do not always know what is coming up.

    Any of you involved in such supporting roles and found a good way to apply GTD?


  • #2
    I have had a couple of projects like this and have written them as: "Support ..... on project relating to ....." When I see this in my weekly review, it triggers me to consider whether I should be asking that person whether there are any actions for me to take at present. It has also acted as a safety net for any corridor conversations where actions weren't captured effectively.


    • #3
      Carefully define "Project"

      I fall into this a lot and have to be careful when I define the "Project". For the purposes of GTD, the "Project" is what multiple step outcome I have committed myself to. This is most certainly not the way your employer has defined the project.

      To illustrate, if I am providing support on a project but do not yet have a specific action to work on, I will put the following in my Someday-Maybe: Support Project X along with any project notes that apply. When I get invited to a project meeting, that goes in my calendar. If I agree to take on a piece of the work, that specific job (e.g., review document X and give comments to Ms. Y by Friday) will go on my Project list and a Next Action (e.g., email Ms. Y to get draft document) goes on my appropriate context list. If there are regular meetings for this effort, I will creat an Agenda Task for the meeting where I can park questions, comments and notes that I want to see when I prepare for the meeting.

      This way, as long as I am doing my weekly review including scanning my Someday-Maybe list I won't lose sight of the project and what role I have committed myself to playing in that project.

      I hope some of that helps you in your situation. Good luck!


      • #4
        i dont see that these are treated any differently to the rest of your projects, at least as far as clarifying is concerned.

        Are you bothered about the outcome happening? If not then when you're asked to do something just stick the Next Action on your list, and when its done forget about it, its someone else's bag to follow it up.

        If you are bothered, then you need a project and/or 20/30k level reminder to make sure you get the appropriate nudge at the appropriate time.

        There's certainly a question about how you manage your lists. If there are lots of projects happening that you have infrequent actions on, but are expected to keep tabs on them nonetheless, perhaps a specific checklist of active projects in your company would help? Maybe even a list per dept or team?

        But conceptually they feel the same to me.


        • #5
          I do a lot of supporting projects, and for me the main difference is in the natural planning model, where a lot of that info is generated by me when I'm the project manager, but a lot of it is set by others when I'm supporting. I use Word for this, and I have made my own templates for projects I'm leading and projects I'm supporting.

          There's also a lot of different information to capture, like clarifying what my role is and when things are due. A lot more of the tasks can tend to be agenda items, but whenever I'm given a specific task it's really important to establish a due date so they don't complain you are taking too long for things you didn't realise were urgent.