What can a company do to make sure it avoids overloading its project managers? The “same” project can be very different depending on factors that the project managers are unable to control.

Many companies just ignore those variables. Doing so can lead to burnt-out project managers. Jobs take longer and the profit margin is less. The clients are not pleased. The result: a perfect storm.

Josh Smith of The Front Porch Group, Grand Rapids Mich., thought there had to be a way of avoiding project manager burn-out. He and his team came up with this concept: Project Difficulty Rating (PDR). They laid out the following variables and values to come up with a PDR for each project. Here is what it looks like:

Project Name and Type  
Contact Dollar Value Points
$0-$30,000 1
$30,001-$60,000 2
$60,001-$120,000 3
$120,001-above 4
0-2 1
3-4 2
5-6 3
7-above 4
Location from Main Office  
0-10 miles 1
11-20 miles 2
21-30 miles 3
31 miles or more 4
Client Personality  
Easy/Low key 1
Needs Attention But Will Be Fine 2
Extra Hand Holding Required 3

Add up the points in each section and you have your PDR.

The simple scoring sheet captures a number of the conditions that make a project more or less difficult. With a rating for each project the company has sold, the project work load can be assigned with less likelihood that any given project manager will get overloaded.

The company likely has a maximum total of PDR scores that a project manager can handle successfully. Exceeding that means going into the danger zone, where bad things often happen.

When we ran our company, I noticed all people are not alike in their capabilities (Duh, right?). Believe it or not it took me some time to realize this. I am a slow learner.

So when we were assigning work to a lead carpenter we had to be careful to make sure the LC was a fit for the type and difficulty rating of the project. If we ignored that we would all experience lots of stress and our clients would be unhappy.

If you are thinking of adapting Josh’s PDR worksheet, consider adding those factors.

The more rational a company’s approach is to managing the work load of its project managers/lead carpenters, the more likely the company will get lots of referrals and repeat business. Keeping that load manageable creates good will on the team, more profits, and happy clients—a very desirable combination.