Allocating team members to different projects, is one of today’s project managers’ main headaches. The Lean and Agile answer would be to simply have everyone working on one project only -until the project’s completed-. That after all, is the meaning of single piece flow. Unfortunately, more often than not, that can’t be done. So, what would the next best solution be?
What we suggest to do, is first to accept the fact that for most companies it’s not possible -or feasible, or desirable- to start working in single piece flow, one project at a time mode. At least not immediately.
Make it visual
Then the best thing to do, is to find some tools to cope with that. Take the data out of your computer and make a visual resource planning board -apart from all the planning boards for individual projects you may already have-. For this resource planning board, we suggest to produce a table, containing rows with names and pictures of all resources of a group or department (more than 40 is not very handy) and columns with the days of the week for a two – three month period. The cells are filled with post-its containing the specific project the resource is being dedicated to on that day.
Keep it simple
It’s not very practical to add more than one post-it per day, but it can be done. Having a board allowing two post-its per day, one theoretically can have people working on 10 projects per week. Not very lean. But it is an important step to visualize the current state. If we don’t see a problem, we can’t solve it. In practice, most companies will quickly stabilize at approximately 3 projects per person per week. Note that service calls (post release) or kanban cards are just one project which needs to be planned for.
It’s crucial to have this resource planning on the wall, out there for all to be seen. That way, not only the resource manager understands what’s going on, but the entire team. This helps to foster team consciousness on the clients’ main needs. Seeing that everyone is fully booked and busy, turns it more acceptable and even logical to pick up chores or jobs from the kanban board. Having transparancy on all jobs and workloads, it becomes much easier for people to propose themselves into other projects or roles, and/ or to learn new skills. This works much better than having a resource planning hidden in an excell sheet, available to one or a few resource planners only.
Resource planning boards allow everybody to see who is available on which days, and to plan with flexibility. Using post-its for the projects (or magnets on a metal board), as opposed to writing on the wall, the board or on sheets, allows you to shift priorities from one project to another, specially when all projects are run in the same rhythm of weekly iterations. By the way, it’s a good idea to allow only one person to actually move post-its around…
Learn and improve
This is one big step. And it works fine. However, we do have it on our wish list to integrate some advanced resource planning features into a next Waypoint release. In order to get even more accuracy in scheduling the right disciplines to teams. But it’s not our highest priority yet. Because the resource planning board does a great visual job already. It helps to move the organization towards less work in progress and to more single piece flow. And support the desire to move people around between teams and thus to share ideas, methods and knowledge -and to improve standardized work-, quality and delivery.