Trading Gold for Days

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the number of resources, rather than how it would normally be divided. Partitioning based on team size has a hidden effect on product quality, as the design is compromised early.

Create a New Concept of "Gold"
A more radical way of translating gold into days is to use additional monetary resources not for people, but to move your team into a new work environment. DeMarco and Lister demonstrate in Peopleware that providing workers with a quiet, distraction-free environment can dramatically improve worker productivity. Microsoft gives each of its developers in Redmond, Washington, an office with a door for this reason. However, if you decide to upgrade your work environment, be sure to budget at least one week of lost productivity for all workers, and at least one month of lost productivity for leaders to plan and implement the move. Unless the project is of sufficient duration, you may not be able to overcome the cost of the move and realize the benefit.

There is No Silver Bullet
Use caution when approaching "silver-bullet" solutions to your time crunch. Experimenting with new tools or rolling out a brand-new methodology are best done on lower-visibility, lower-risk projects. Do not plan on more than a 5% to 10% improvement in productivity from any combination of new tools or processes. They are more likely to cause project delays, resulting from the need to train personnel, develop and roll out the process, etc.

Trading gold for days is risky. Management seldom realizes how much more a shorter schedule is likely to cost them. It is easy to trade a 10% reduction in nominal schedule duration for a 50% increase in overall project budget. While management backing may be present at the beginning of the project, it is likely to wane as the overruns mount. Make sure that management understands as soon as possible the impact of schedule compression on the budget.

In short, be careful - be explicit about costs and potential downtime, and try to think creatively about where and how to apply extra resources for the greatest schedule impact.

About the author

Peter Clark's picture Peter Clark

Peter Clark has twenty years of experience in industrial automation. He currently manages teams working in materials handling, especially baggagehandling systems. A regular columnist on StickyMinds.com, Peter can be reached at pclark@jerviswebb.com.

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