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Fewer waiting resources and fewer peaks and troughs

Just about every organization has to deal with it, huge peaks in workload and periods when it is really the dead season – when there is little happening and little to do. And while this is mostly the default, such peaks and troughs are far from optimal for organizational productivity.

In this blog article we discuss 3 best practices to reduce peaks and troughs in the organization and increase productivity.

 

1. Plan your projects from big to small

Stephen Covey has a famous exercise to demonstrate the “put first things first” concept. Here you have to put large, medium and small stones in a pot. You soon notice that if you start with the small and medium stones that you never manage to get the large stones in. So you have to put the large stones in the pot first, then the medium ones and finally the small ones.

The same principle applies to effectively plan your projects. In practice, it works best to have your employees work on one project at a time as much as possible. Because, if you first distribute the small projects/assignments among the employees, it will not be possible to properly staff the large projects. You then have to fill it with all the spare hours that everyone has left, which is at the expense of the implementation and quality of your larger projects.

However, if you plan the large projects first, you can immediately make firm agreements about them. You can then divide the medium and small assignments – just like the smaller stones in the pot – over the planning so that everything fits. Do not make hard agreements for these smaller assignments. This way you can shift and adjust the planning if things change around the large projects.

 

2. Avoid multitasking

Performing multiple activities at the same time, or multitasking, is often seen as a way to increase efficiency. At least that’s how it feels, because you’re constantly busy. However, in reality, multitasking leads to decreased productivity.

This is because project managers expect results on their projects. When employees are scheduled on different projects, they feel compelled to make progress on all of them. The result? The progress of every project is in jeopardy.

In practice, multitasking therefore leads to longer lead times. Employees are constantly switching between different tasks, similar to a machine that has to be reset over and over again. This not only costs time, but also creates extra stress and work pressure.

So, by scheduling employees on one activity without interruption, tasks are completed faster. In addition, they will be more satisfied with their performance because they “get the time” to do their job well.

 

3. Reduce dependencies

Most projects have multiple activity paths that converge at some point. For example, because one activity, such as testing the end product, depends on the completion of all previous activities. If one activity path is then delayed, the test phase cannot start and the entire project is therefore delayed. To make a capacity planning, it is therefore important that you plan employees on different activity paths. This way you prevent them from suddenly “being unable to do anything” in the event of a delay.

An effective method to avoid dependencies is SCRUM. Deliverables are divided into usable parts, which are made in sprints of 1–2. Although not every partial result is used immediately, it is in any case ready for assembly at a later time. In the meantime, employees can continue with the next sprint, so they rarely have nothing to do.

#Pro-tip: Save administrative tasks as much as possible and schedule them when employees are unexpectedly unable to do anything due to unforeseen delays.

 

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