Words. Sometimes they have little meaning … like a job title. Other times they have deeper meanings as they’re an indication of behaviours. When someone first corrected me to say I shouldn’t be calling “people” “resources” I just thought he was being annoying. What you call them isn’t important as it’s only a label. People, resources, staff … who cares?!?!
People are complex. They’re far more complex than any machine. So thinking we can manage them in the same way is just wrong. I’m not sure where this practice started but it’s just a bad practice. People cannot have their parts easily replaced to quickly get them back in service when something burns out. People also need to continue to grow and better themselves as I believe it’s in our nature. Striving to allocate people to 100% means you really don’t value the need for personal growth and sustainable pace.
I’ve seen many organizations who make the mistake of thinking they can manage their people as resources. How do you know if you’re one of them? Just look at your management practices. If the goal is ensuring everyone is allocated 100% of the time then perhaps it’s time to stop and think about the impact. In the most extreme examples I’ve seen people’s time sliced to 5-10% of their time just to ensure the numbers add up to 100%. I once had a manager contact me requesting I adjust one of her people’s allocation by 2% just so the number equalled 100% … Seriously?!?
So what’s the impact?
- For your people they are not going to be at their best. Over time their personal satisfaction and morale will go down. When things go wrong it becomes too easy for the people to blame the environment, or justify their mistakes based on too much work on the go. It’s just too easy for things to get lost in the pile.
- For their work you’re going to be wondering why the results aren’t improving. People are likely jumping from project to project, and might even take short cuts just to say they’ve worked on all of them. The end result is poor quality and technical debt you’re going to pay back for a long time.
- In the quest for high productivity you will in fact lower it! This is a whole topic in itself to talk about the myth of multitasking, and the time it takes to context switch. Suffice it to say every time someone needs to put down one thing to pick up another you create waste.
What can you do about this?
- Create work life balance – lots of places talk about it but how many practice it effectively? The Agile Manifesto says people should be able to maintain a sustainable pace indefinitely. Is this happening at your organization?
- Stop the dangerous driving! Start focusing on the people and providing an environment for great results. Stop focusing on utilizing the people 100% of the time. You will be amazed how much better things will go!
- Stop managing people like machines! Minimize the number of times you slice up their time. Instead of looking to fill their time with assigned work, give them some breathing room and freedom to grow. People do great things when they’re passionate about it. It’s why people play music for fun, or write open source software.
There’s lots of things you can do to create a great environment fostering great results. Allocating people fully is not one of them so stop and reflect on the impact it’s having. The people who work for you want to do a great job, feel valued and contribute to something bigger than themselves. Maybe it’s time to give them an environment making this possible.