First things first: when referring to people in the abstract, I prefer words like "someone," "person," or "people." I dislike the word "resources," which, to me, evokes things like equipment, timber, and coalmines. OK. That's out of the way.
When team members have responsibilities to multiple teams, those teams all face risks. The unexpected happens. Priorities change. Schedules change. Time commitments cannot always be honored. We might try to schedule our efforts, but when team members belong to multiple teams, the plan and the reality are sometimes wildly different, even if the root cause of the trouble is elsewhere.
Here are four guidelines for sharing people more effectively than we often do.
- Front-load the activities of shared people
- Trouble sometimes arises in partner efforts. If resolving that trouble requires additional time from someone you share, you could lose access to that person. Moreover, even if the partner project goes smoothly, difficulties in other projects could result in schedule changes for the partner project, and the shared person might not be available at the time you scheduled.
- If possible, schedule your own efforts so that the work that shared people do happens early.
- Adjust effort estimates for interruption of flow
- During planning, when we estimate effort, we often assume that the person doing the work is doing nothing else. Since that assumption is invalid for people with divided responsibilities, and since juggling multiple assignments does have associated costs, our estimates tend to be lower than the actual time required.
- Make estimates that realistically account for the loss of time due to multiple assignments. When tracking actual effort data, track assignment multiplicity, too.
- Combine hours into the longest possible contiguous bursts
- To minimize Combine hours into the longest
possible contiguous burstslosses due to interruption of flow in the context of split assignments, combine hours of effort for each person into the largest possible contiguous chunks. Instead of one day per week for six weeks, schedule two days per week for three weeks, or four days in one week, and two days three weeks later.
- You might have to negotiate with partner team leads, but when they understand the advantages of contiguous bursts, the negotiations are likely to be smooth.
- Avoid the "MS Project flat rate syndrome"
- Planners tend to use as weekly effort estimates for each person, the total estimated effort for each person divided by the task duration in weeks. Rarely does work actually proceed in this way. Even if it did, such a pattern maximizes the losses due to multiple assignments, because it maximally interrupts flow.
- Actual work is usually performed in bursts. Use your project planning software to schedule those bursts.
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Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming June 28: Tackling Hard Problems: I
- Hard problems need not be big problems. Even when they're small, they can halt progress on any project. Here's Part I of an approach to working on hard problems by breaking them down into smaller steps. Available here and by RSS on June 28.
- And on July 5: Tackling Hard Problems: II
- In this Part II of our look at solving hard problems, we continue developing properties of the solution, and look at how we get from the beginning to the end. Available here and by RSS on July 5.
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- CTCPA, 716 Brook Street, Rocky Hill, CT 06067: September 20, Full-day Workshop, Southern New England Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.