Monday came. Monday went. My team’s
back up to two people this week, though they both have other
priorities at the moment. Which is, oddly enough, okay with me; I
agreed to reassign their time since the problem they now get to to
address caused the vast majority of our support calls. The team
might as well get a chance to do something about it, rather than just
let it beat them up.
In order to maximize our throughput,
though, I have to get organized. So I spent a goodly portion of last
week rebuilding our activity calendar, a six to eight week critical
path style document outlining what’s going on, who needs to do what,
and when we want it completed (or at least mostly closed down). It
gives my team a good overview of what’s coming up, lets me keep
things on track, and even helps the teams which interface with mine
understand what, and where, my priorities are. It’s not a straight
jacket, though, just a snapshot of what we think will happen.
It occurred to me, though, that I might
want to check our actual throughput against my plans. So I pulled up
the last four activity calendars and compared what we’ve done against
what we accomplished. The first one had more activities than you
could shake a stick at. It was jam packed with action oriented
phrases, stretch goals, and more than a few idle pipe-dreams. The
next few toned down a bit, while my current one is busy but doesn’t
have quite the same feel of we can do anything!
So, did I just give up? Did I decide
we couldn’t do anything in a reasonable time-frame?
No and no. I did not give up and I
certainly do not think my team contains a bunch of slackers who
accomplish nothing in a day. In fact, some people joke that my team
is the hard work vertical. It’s not entirely untrue; we have a
lot to do and are short staffed to boot. Plus I do ask a lot from my
team. As a general rule they deliver, something which constantly
The change stems from something else.
You see, I long ago learned something which seems to elude the
writers of management text books. It’s not a big truth but rather
one of those little obvious things which makes everything else work
better. Most of us even know it. We just don’t talk about it too
much because no one wants to admit it.
Here it is. Not everyone is a
superstar. Most of us, myself included in fact, work hard and try to
enjoy what we do. It takes us time to figure things out. We need
help at times. Occasionally we can spend whole weeks working on
something which someone else, somewhere else, solved in fifteen
minutes. Sometimes, when we look at a new technology, it really just
doesn’t make any sense whatsoever for the first few months.
By itself this truth doesn’t mean much.
We all know most teams contain a goodly number of B players, some
over-hyped A players, and some C players we keep around as trade
goods. But when I combine it with my activity calendars and
planning, I get to something kind of interesting.
Looking over the progression of my
calendars, I can see my own learning curve with my team. At first I
built the activities without much understanding of what my team could
and could not do. Over the weeks and months I learned who could
process which tasks faster, who could solve what kinds of problems,
and who I needed to lay off of for a bit.
Building the activity calendars also
helps us keep prioritized. We all have way too much to do in any
given month. We cannot do it all. What we can do, though, is figure
out what will have the greatest impact and direct our work in that
direction. So long as we hit the high impact items, the rest of it
will probably fall into place.
Speaking of, its time to get back to
working on the next activity calendar. I want it to be ready next
month when things start to get back to normal.