Are Your “Shoulds” Driving Your Decisions?
Last week, I spoke with a test manager. “I'm trying to staff 8 projects with 6 testers. No matter how I slice it, it's not going to work,” he said.
“You're right, it's not going to work” I agreed. “What projects are you not going to staff?” I asked.
“None of them,” he said. “I should staff all of them part-time, right?”
“No. Why should you staff all of them part-time and none of them full-time?” I asked. “What does that buy you?”
We spoke some more. He was stuck on the “shoulds” for his organization.
He thought that he “should” staff everything a little bit, instead of making a real commitment to some of the projects.
The problem with a part-time commitment is that it doesn't meet anybody's needs. The testers don't learn enough to do a good enough job, so they are frustrated. The developers don't get enough feedback early enough, so they are frustrated. If this is an agile project, the team can't reliably get to done at the end of the iteration. If it's a traditional project, the system test cycles take an unpredictable amount of time.
This problem isn't limited to testers or test managers. The “shoulds” happen to Scrum Masters, agile coaches, project managers, managers–everyone who sees a lack of people on projects. But the problem isn't a lack of people. The problem is too many simultaneous projects–a lack of project portfolio management.
And, that problem doesn't just happen at work. It happens to us at home, too. When we say things such as, “I should work out more in the gym” or “I should learn to ski” or “I should floss more,” and we fragment our time, we suffer from the same problem. We give ourselves more projects without deciding what to not do anymore. We need to decide what to commit to and what we are not going to commit to, for now.
This is tough work. It's not easy to make the decisions to manage your project portfolio. And, it pays off fast. If you're a manager, it allows your teams to increase their throughput. For you, it helps you focus on what you will and will not do, increasing your throughput. To learn more, see Manage Your Project Portfolio.
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