Plan for the ‘unknown’ to bring sanity to the work week

At Crowd Favorite, I like to think we employ the ‘right’ balance of meetings and process to facilitate the work to be done, without it becoming burdensome. Critical to that balance is a weekly review of resource commitments and dialog between the management team.

Every Monday the management team comes to the table and has to lay it all out as to who is expected to do what and when. This allows us to cover

  • committed deliverable dates and client expectations
  • high, medium, and low risk items for slippage
  • where internal efforts need to be accommodated
  • what to anticipate in the coming weeks (what is right around the corner)
  • other miscellaneous expectations that aren’t tasked and tracked

Not only does this meeting allow us to plan for the upcoming week(s) — make negotiations and trade-offs where necessary — it affords us transparency into the demands of the team. When considering the ‘other stuff’ or ‘overhead’ with regularly anticipated work, we can better identify the things that will impact planned efforts.

For instance, let’s say developer Jane has 35 hours of project work, and most of it is mission critical — has to be complete by the end of the week. That seems reasonable, right? Let’s also say that the hours projected isn’t accounting for things we typically refer to as ‘overhead’ like

  • meetings
  • emails
  • providing team support
  • providing estimates for business development
  • updating internal documentation
  • triaging internal things (eg something broke on our own website)
  • time entry
  • and the stuff that comes up every day that just isn’t known yet

In this Jane scenario there could be another 15 hours of overhead to consider with the 35 hours of planned work, which would require that Jane put in 50 hours that week to be 100% effective.

This is poor planning. Instead, we use this Monday meeting to identify the time demands and constraints sooner. This proactive approach allows us to do things like negotiate the timeline and/or involve other team members and/or reset expectations (eg prioritize the other stuff).

By identifying the ‘unknowns’ and adjusting plans, we can provide Jane with a sane, 40-hour work week. This not only alleviates the stress on Jane to put in more time, removing the pressure to “go above and beyond”, it reduces the high risk of something getting dropped. We all know that consistently working more than 40 hours per week actually decreases productivity and burns people out.

Happy, satisfied people do good work. Balancing the work in a reasonable way is how we keep people happy and satisfied.

4 Comments

  1. Overworking people is a common trend in the US right now, but it does not improve productive or profits as many people think. Many companies treat their programmers/developers like cogs. They try to get the most out of them as quickly as possible and then simply replace them with a cheaper part once they break down from being overworked. However, by doing this you are stressing out part of the functioning system and causing it to deteriorate its productivity at a faster rate. Additionally, you also have to spend more time replacing parts and testing its efficiency, which prevents other cogs in the system from being productive and bring in additional profits for your company.

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  2. It’s important that a reasonable work week (40 hours or less) be the expectation; not the exception. To be clear, I also think it’s important that people go beyond the work time to improve upon their skills and build their craft. I’ve spent many weeks ‘working’ beyond the anticipated 40 hours to expand upon my own knowledge and expertise. But I consider that time well-invested in myself.

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