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Part time project engagement – no thanks!

August 20th, 2007

I am currently employed at a government owned, medium sized company. The company’s IT-division is struggling to satisfy the diverse needs of the other divisions, and is constantly undermanned. One clear indicator of this is multiple project engagement among developers. It has become the default state.
It’s understandable that management give in to the pressure and tries to squeeze the most out of its staff, but unfortunately it is counterproductive. It’s because the more goals you push onto someone, the less commitment he or she can put into each one. And as we all know: if commitment goes down, production goes down.

You form a project to achieve a specific goal, a goal you want to reach as soon as possible. So projects are all about focus, and you can not focus on more than one task at a time. It’s inevitable that you’ll lose time juggling projects. Thus, part time engagement makes projects move slower.

So, what to do? The same things you always do when resources are scarce: prioritize, divide and conquer. Always form teams that work full time on a single project. They will be more productive, and if you’re lucky they might even jell. Let the teams finish before you assign a new task. Instead, see to it that projects are small and can be completed within relatively short time. If a project swells and get big, find the smallest set of features that would still be useful, and form the project around that. Remember, the process of iteration can be applied at the project level too.

Project iteration has several advantages: it increases the closure frequency which helps keeping the teams performance rate high, it increases the chance of success for the individual project, and it releases something useful to the users sooner. And, it provides a constant stream of opportunities for you to make new strategical decisions based on small manageable projects.

To conclude this rather messy post: Don’t mess with my team, let us stay focused and finish what we have set out to do.

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