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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More articles on Project Management:
- Seeing Through the Fog
- When projects founder, we're often shocked — we thought everything was moving along smoothly.
Sometimes, with the benefit of hindsight, we can see that we had — or could have had — enough
information to determine that trouble was ahead. Somehow it was obscured by fog. How can we get better
at seeing through the fog?
- Communication Traps for Virtual Teams: II
- Communication can be problematic for any team, especially under pressure. But virtual teams face challenges
that are less common in face-to-face teams. Here's Part II of a little catalog with some recommendations.
- On the Risk of Undetected Issues: II
- When things go wrong and remain undetected, trouble looms. We continue our efforts, increasing investment
on a path that possibly leads nowhere. Worse, time — that irreplaceable asset — passes.
How can we improve our ability to detect undetected issues?
- Some Risks of Short-Term Fixes
- When we encounter a problem at work, we must choose between short-term fixes (also known as workarounds)
and long-term solutions. Often we choose workarounds without appreciating the risks we're accepting
— until too late.
- The Planning Fallacy and Self-Interest
- A well-known cognitive bias, the planning fallacy, accounts for many unrealistic estimates of project
cost and schedule. Overruns are common. But another cognitive bias, and organizational politics, combine
with the planning fallacy to make a bad situation even worse.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming February 8: Kerfuffles That Seem Like Something More
- Much of what we regard as political conflict is a series of squabbles commonly called kerfuffles. They captivate us while they're underway, but after a month or two they're forgotten. Why do they happen? Why do they persist? Available here and by RSS on February 8.
- And on February 15: Four Razors for Organizational Behavior
- Deviant organizational behavior can harm the people and the organization. In choosing responses, we consider what drives the perpetrators. Considering Malice, Incompetence, Ignorance, and Greed, we can devise four guidelines for making these choices. Available here and by RSS on February 15.
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