If you work in a large organization, as a manager, you can arrange for The Expert to transition to another project. In a small organization, you can arrange for The Expert to work on a special project. Make sure that special project has plenty of deliverables so The Expert is busy and cannot opine on the old project.
The team will learn how to learn together. Once you remove The Expert, the team has a shot at becoming a real team, because now team members share a common goal.
Once you remove The Expert, team members will work together, and fast, to discover what they don’t know. They will share what they do know. But, you have to allow The Expert to be available a limited period of time every week. Maybe one hour, and then only if the team is stuck. Encourage the team to develop and use tests instead of questions to discover how the product works.
Stagger the Projects to Use The Expert
Maybe you don’t have an expert with a self-esteem problem. Maybe you really do have a limited number of experts with security expertise and you need them full time on a project. And, maybe you expected Project A to finish by now so Project B could start. But Project A is not yet done. Well, this is an easy problem to solve. If Project A is more valuable than Project B, don’t start Project B. If Project B is more valuable than Project A, stop Project A and start Project B. Yes, it really is that easy.
But, you say, we haven’t released Project A. Well, if you used an agile approach on Project A, maybe you have something sufficiently valuable to release. Maybe not. Too bad. Managing the project portfolio is a zero-sum game internally, so that you optimize for the entire organization. You do want the organization to succeed, right?
Project portfolio management is all about having the difficult discussions at the organizational level so you don’t do two projects at the same time, slowing down both of them.
Which project is more valuable, Project A or Project B? Which project moves the organization forward? How little can you do and still have a valuable release? Those are the kinds of questions you need to ask.
If you haven’t been using an agile approach on Project A, it’s not too late to start. Finish the features that are close, then rank the rest of the features. Let’s hope you started working on features in something like rank order.
Hire More Experts
If you really want both Projects A and B to proceed simultaneously, you have to hire more people. Even so, it will take a while to hire more people and have them up to speed fast enough to make a difference. But, hiring more people will help.
Understand the Root Cause
One of the reasons we have so much multitasking in our organizations is that we have so many experts with narrow expertise. The more narrow the expertise, the less any one project needs that person, but when you need that person, you really need that person.
We have many myths about needing Experts and Only Experts to perform specific work. There is some work that only experts can do. The real question is this: how much? I don't expect developers to become testers or vice versa. Nor do I expect UI designers to become security experts. But as a manager, I expect everyone on a project to learn enough about the project to be conversant about the entire project. And, most importantly, I expect experts to work with others to share their knowledge.
The more people you have who can take a more generalist approach to product development, the more flexibility you have for your projects. So when I say, “Work flows through a team,” you agree with me and say, “Of course. How else would it work?”
You don’t have to eliminate The Experts; you want to reduce the need for them and raise everyone’s technical competence and capability in your organization.
Read all of Johanna's Management Myths here:
- The Myth of 100% Utilization
- Only the 'Expert' Can Perform This Work
- We Must Treat Everyone the Same Way
- I Don't Need One-on-Ones
- We Must Have an Objective Ranking System
- I Can Save Everyone
- I Am Too Valuable to Take a Vacation
- I Can Still Do Significant Technical Work
- We Have No Time for Training
- I Can Measure the Work by the Time People Spend at Work
- The Team Needs a Cheerleader!
- I Must Promote the Best Technical Person to Be a Manager
- I Must Never Admit My Mistakes