People are not fungible resources

Hi all –


We are currently using both Scrum and more traditional project management on several efforts going on within our product unit, and I thought I’d share some learnings.


Something we’re running into is that getting people dedicated to one effort can be hard, depending on the management style of the relevant managers.  For some parts of the team, the relevant leads & managers dedicated people to one effort.  For other parts of the team, the leads & managers insisted on partial assignments, e.g. saying Boffo is 50% on team A and 50% on team B.


This is a basic point of difference between task-based project management (where people are assumed to be fungible resources) and people-based project management (where the team of people is first determined, and their work items second).


As you might guess, so far it is apparent that partial assignment of people does not work very well (both for efforts using Scrum and for traditional projects).  It seems to me that a time split will seldom be 50/50 – instead it will be 80/20 or 90/10, depending on which task is more urgent or more interesting.


On several projects where we aren’t using Scrum but where people are being loaned across teams in the division to do something, we heard again & again that partial assignments are causing problems because the people aren’t fully dedicated (timewise) to the tasks, and it’s very hard to schedule.


Likewise, on the efforts where we have used Scrum, having someone partially available doesn’t jive well – hard to build cohesion and have smooth coordination with people who aren’t always around & may have the tasks from your sprint on the back burner.


Moreover, it’s pretty obvious to most people that if you are working on 2 or more project simultaneously, there is a high price to be paid for context switches.


So, based on what we’ve seen so far, my advice to my readers is that you should avoid assigning people fractionally – instead, pick one task and throw them fully at it.  As has been said for a long time, people are not fungible resources.


Over & out!



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