I taught several PM workshops last week in Israel. The Israeli project managers have the same concerns that my US students do–it’s difficult to imagine moving to Agile or even just integrating agile methods into your project if you have specialists.
Specialists increase project delays in these ways:
- They aren’t available when you need them. Because they are specialists, it’s too easy for the specialist to be busy on another task when you need that specific person. And, because you or the specialist estimate only the time the specialist needed, if you ask anyone else to do the task, the task will take too long.
- The work backs up. No, you don’t need a specialist all the time. But when you do, you need them. So, since work doesn’t arrive as an even distribution, but instead arrives more in a Poisson distribution, the specialist has some periods of time when they aren’t busy, and more times when they have a queue of work.
- Murphy’s Law will happen. Just when you need a specialist, that person will want a vacation, or want to get married, or go skiing for two weeks, or have a baby. Or, leave the organization.
PMs (and projects) don’t need specialists. They need people who are multi-talented and can finish tasks. Am I saying that we turn GUI designers into kernel developers? No, but there are many more things that a GUI designer or a kernel developer can do, rather than just one specialty.
If you have specialists now, rethink your staffing, and offer people opportunities to learn new skills. Your projects will progress faster and you’ll be more effective.