It is a familiar feeling. There is simply too much work to be done. It feels like more and more projects are starting and old ones are not yet concluded. What is happening is that all these unfinished projects are left hanging around waiting for the same key people or resources to be available in order to bring them to fruition.
These key people and resources vary based on the situation and the nature of the project. The blockage could consist of anything from an overbooked database expert needed for some simple changes to the system, up to a lack of time in business defining requirements. It could even be a CEO who has been delayed in signing off the relevant paperwork necessary for the project to begin.
These bottlenecks have become even more noticeable as agile project models have become increasingly popular. In agile models, the work is divided into sprints, which often last from 1 week to 4 weeks. The agile makes this problem even more apparent, because if the team is not able to solve the issue during the sprint, agreed work is moved onto upcoming sprints preventing the team from completing its planned work.
So, that said, is there anything that organisations can do to solve these issues and make sure that the project flow is smooth. It turns out that there is plenty, so let us first consider the pitfalls in thinking that cause these problems:
- Thinking that the more projects that are open will increase the amount of work that gets completed.
- Trying to keep everyone busy all the time.
- No method of identifying bottlenecked resources.
- Planning for the start, not for the end of projects.
People often think that the more work that gets started, the more work gets done. However, this is somewhat counter intuitive as starting more will end up with more projects waiting for the same, finite key resources. This causes increased resource usage on paused projects, unless the issues that are holding them up are resolved. It is also typical that instead of concluding old projects, even more are started to keep the entire organisation busy as there seems to be an abundance of time to fill up with work.
It may feel a little counter intuitive, but pushing more work on key people will cause less work to get done if the underlying bottlenecks are not addressed. To unlock the answer to these issues, the key is to do the following:
- Limit the amount of work that gets started.
- Find and resolve the bottlenecks that are impeding resources.
When the bottlenecks are finally resolved, it will become apparent that more gets done than ever before, as the things that are open get closed faster and less overheads are required for controlling the overall flow.
Read from our blog how minimum viable management is not a constant.