You have noticed that some project work seems to drag on forever. When things don’t go as quickly as you want, stop and identify some of the underlying causes. Consider the following categories and questions.
Are your team members skilled?
For example, eliciting and writing software requirements can take ten times longer when the team doesn’t have requirements skills. Incorrect and poorly-defined requirements that slip downstream in the project eat more time.
Similarly, teams that don’t know how to find defects efficiently in design, code and test cases have to work extra hours and days to get their software ready to ship. New skills lead to speed and fewer mistakes.
Planning, stakeholders and coordination
Is the team looking ahead more than two weeks?
Planning reduces or eliminates obstacles that slow the project down. When teams don’t plan, every day is an obstacle, either because a critical resource is not available, stakeholders are absent, or component A is ready but component B is going to be three months late.
Are tasks getting done, or are many tasks started, but few are finished?
Each time a new task is taken on, a tax has to be paid to transition to and from that task. If the tax consumes five or 10 percent of an individual’s time to put one task down and pick up the next, then the tax can consume between 50 and 100 percent of a resource when ten tasks are started. Keeping ten plates spinning at once looks impressive for a while, but does not lead to much getting finished.
Do surprises occur every day?
Problems are a sign of life, but world-class teams prevent the problems they can. This leaves more time for the ones they can’t. If your team is buried in problems and surprises, then it is likely that risk management is not being done, or not being done effectively.
Select a time-consuming activity that your team does, identify two or three causes, and develop actions to address them.
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