Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 11, Issue 19;   May 11, 2011:

Guidelines for Sharing "Resources"

by

Often, team members belong to several different teams. The leaders of teams whose members have divided responsibilities must sometimes contend with each other for the efforts and energies of the people they share. Here are some suggestions for sharing people effectively.
Vortex cores about an F18 fighter jet

Vortex cores about an F18 fighter jet. The figure depicts vortex cores overlaid with streak lines. The vortex cores are represented by black line segments and the streak lines are colored by time at release. Creating turbulence drains energy from the aircraft. So it is with organizational turbulence — the chaotic group behavior that happens when too many different tasks compete with each other for people with skills that are in high demand within the organization. Even though all the projects might eventually be completed successfully, we can consider organizational turbulence to be the scurrying related to finding people and holding onto them until their work is complete. That activity (the scurrying) drains energy from the organization by adding costs to almost everything it does. Photo courtesy U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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 bursts
losses 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.

People with multiple assignments are usually less effective than they would be if they had only one assignment. And they might be called away at any time. Plan for it. Go to top Top  Next issue: How to Create Distrust  Next Issue

52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented OrganizationsAre your projects always (or almost always) late and over budget? Are your project teams plagued by turnover, burnout, and high defect rates? Turn your culture around. Read 52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented Organizations, filled with tips and techniques for organizational leaders. Order Now!

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenGBFYqdeDxZESDSsjner@ChacmtFQZGrwOdySPdSsoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Project Management:

A phoenixFilms Not About Project Teams: II
Here's Part II of a list of films and videos about project teams that weren't necessarily meant to be about project teams. Most are available to borrow from the public library, and all are great fun.
"Taking an observation at the pole."The Risky Role of Hands-On Project Manager
The hands-on project manager manages the project and performs some of the work, too. There are lots of excellent hands-on project managers, but the job is inherently risky, and it's loaded with potential conflicts of interest.
The Satir Interaction Model as simplified by WeinbergManaging Wishful Thinking Risk
When things go wrong, and we look back at how we got there, we must sometimes admit to wishful thinking. Here's a framework for managing the risk of wishful thinking.
Rosemary Woods, President Richard Nixon's personal secretaryYet More Obstacles to Finding the Reasons Why
Part III of our catalog of obstacles encountered in retrospectives, when we try to uncover why we succeeded — or failed.
An excavator loads spoil into rail cars in the Culebra Cut, Panama, 1904Power Distance and Teams
One of the attributes of team cultures is something called power distance, which is a measure of the overall comfort people have with inequality in the distribution of power. Power distance can determine how well a team performs when executing high-risk projects.

See also Project Management and Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

A possibly difficult choiceComing April 21: Choice-Supportive Bias
Choice-supportive bias is a cognitive bias that causes us to evaluate our past choices as more fitting than they actually were. The erroneous judgments it produces can be especially costly to organizations interested in improving decision processes. Available here and by RSS on April 21.
Two people engaged in pair collaborationAnd on April 28: The Self-Explanation Effect
In the learning context, self-explanation is the act of explaining to oneself what one is learning. Self-explanation has been shown to increase the rate of acquiring mastery. The mystery is why we don't structure knowledge work to exploit this phenomenon. Available here and by RSS on April 28.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenGBFYqdeDxZESDSsjner@ChacmtFQZGrwOdySPdSsoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500-1000 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power

Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

Bullet Points: Mastery or Madness?

DecisBullet Point Madnession-makers in modern organizations commonly demand briefings in the form of bullet points or a series of series of bullet points. But this form of presentation has limited value for complex decisions. We need something more. We actually need to think. Briefers who combine the bullet-point format with a variety of persuasion techniques can mislead decision-makers, guiding them into making poor decisions. Read more about this program.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.
101 Tips for Managing ChangeAre you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt?
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.
If your teams don't yet consistently achieve state-of-the-art teamwork, check out this catalog. Help is just a few clicks/taps away!
Ebooks, booklets and tip books on project management, conflict, writing email, effective meetings and more.