If it’s 72 and sunny, your team may be bored

Resource forecasting, much like weather forecasting, is about trying to predict the future given the current conditions of today. Unlike weather forecasting, though, resource forecasting gives power to the project/traffic manager to change the weather and choose what climate and mood their team has (or at least heavily influence it).

Based on my conversations with customers who try to control the weather (their resources), I’ve found two prevailing approaches: first, about half like it 72 and sunny all year round, and second the other half love the seasons.

Why I like seasons

I live in San Francisco, California. For about nine months a year, it’s 72 and sunny; for two months, it’s 66 and partly clouded; and in June, it’s 54 and foggy. In short, it’s very pleasant.

San Francisco weather is a far-cry from what I’m used to: I grew up in Oregon, studied in upstate New York, and lived in Vermont. One thing I miss the most (besides no traffic) is the variable weather and the changing seasons. There is something about the movement of the weather and seasons that changes my mood in an exciting, natural, and cyclical way.

We need this tie to earth’s rhythms. But what do we often do? We insulate ourselves from the outside with heating or AC, sit down at a desk all day, and try to go to bed at 10pm, wake up at 6:15 am, and catch the 7:31 train- reminiscent of BTO’s Takin’ Care of Business.

Seasons and scheduling — it’s ok to overbook

Here’s the truth — I hate the monotony of work. Perhaps it’s because I work from home, or perhaps it’s because I feel like I am stuck in the endless cycle of sameness. I hate waking up every day at the same time, to grab my cup of coffee and sit in the kitchen of my 400 sq. foot studio, with my cat, Plumpy, staring at me. The days all seem to blend together, 8 hours everyday, 5 days a week, endlessly. Where is my space for creativity? Somehow it went missing, or if I am honest with myself, it probably never existed. But does it really have to be this way? If I could describe a perfect working environment, well, I would say, I would have a diverse schedule. I would work from home some days and come in others. I would work late when I need to or just because I want to, and I would go for a midday walk on days that I can….
- past agency employee who previously worked from home.

How interesting is your work life with a consistent 90% utilization? Probably similar to living in San Francisco. It’s really pleasant, yet there’s not much up and down. If this is how your team gets its energy, then fine!

But what about for the team that likes change and likes working in bursts? I’m thinking about the creatives and the coders. Let’s look at work life with 110% utilization for 2 weeks and 70% utilization for the other part of the month:

  • 110% utilization is a hot summer: Your team is at high-intensity and strong focus, like a hot day. You are working hard, and you are coming home exhausted. But it feels good.
  • 70% utilization is a cold winter: For the other, lighter weeks, it’s like a cold winter day in Vermont: you snuggle up by the fire and read a good book-i.e., you research the latest design trends and try one out; you work on your website side project; you shadow the managing partner of the firm and learn new ways to handle client objections during the sales process.
For some — they get energy from a month that looks like this

Play off your team’s energy

Business systems have a tendency to dehumanize and homogenize. We draw analogies to mills, cars, and rockets in business presentations and memos (which in themselves are dehumanized).

But, we are humans (right?) We can use a tool / process to breathe life and excitement into a team. For example, using AffinityLive’s Team Scheduling to purposely overbook your team members on some weeks to bring intensity to a project. Then, for the next weeks, give them mental vacations.

Now, I know the approach for scheduling and utilization will greatly differ for the different types of individuals on your team. Designers aren’t analysts and creative directors aren’t senior consultants. So ask your team: what would they prefer? Interested to hear the perspectives out there!

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