What’s Your Comfort Level?

When scheduling work loads and projects, there are several reasons to ask your team what tasks and projects they are comfortable taking on.

• Managers may plan a work load based on prior experience, biased toward the historic average, while team members are looking at the complexity and problems the project will have. They know their own slower learning curve to take up tasks for this project, where this new project isn’t exactly like the old one.
• Many managers plan based on a “happy path” where all testing goes well, nothing has to be reworked, new problems aren’t discovered and no one overlooked a critical interface to be tested. While managers plan on a ten day project assuming only one day of slippage, those in the trenches are more likely to say we need two extra days for thirteen total to make sure it is right. Ask your team what schedule they are comfortable with instead of setting a schedule that suits your calendar and arbitrary deadlines.
• Managers may not realize the technical debt staff needs to do in addition to the new tasks the manager wants to assign. The technical debt is an additional burden that leaves less time available for new projects.
• Managers may not realize the tasking inefficiencies from things like communication delays, training those you delegate to and reliance on subject matter experts who need to be onboarded.
• Managers have a tendency to expect overtime to meet desired completion dates, regardless of the risk of burning out team members or prior commitments of team members.
• Managers that over-plan to the point that people track time cards to the tenths of an hour, submit long daily reports typed by hand and other time intensive tasks end up taking time away from the actual work to report the status of their work. I’ve seen this in status meetings where senior engineers remarked, “I can get ready for the status meeting or finish the task you want done by the end of the day – pick one.” Managers need to ask at what point oversight becomes a source of inefficiency, hindering actual work, though most aren’t comfortable doing this.