By Johanna Rothman.
Overtime is the last degree of flexibility in a project. Unfortunately, too many project managers and project staff use overtime as the first reaction when a project starts to miss the schedule.
Gene Fellner, in his article in Chapter 19 in the book “IT Measurement, P ractical Advice from the Experts,” edited by the International Function Point Users Group, Addison-Wesley, 2002, has several arguments against overtime. This one was the one that caught my eye:
“One plastics firm – a high-tech bastion of knowledge workers like IT – found that by shortening its work week to 32 hours and giving its employees more time to recharge their mental batteries, its defect and rework rate dropped so sharply that net productivity actually increased.”
I’ve certainly found that long periods of overtime create products with tremendous technical debt. That debt causes problems for the next project because the product is unstable, and the problems have to be fixed. Not only does the project staff have to perform new development, they have to fix as well.
So, your project is late. What can you do aside from start with overtime?
If you’ve tried all that, and you’re within a couple of weeks of the end of the project, then a little overtime is probably okay. But take the overtime into account when you add up the person-hours you spent on the project, so you can improve your estimates for the next time.
If you’re near the beginning or in the middle of the project, don’t start with overtime. Replan the project, planning to release with fewer features.
Johanna Rothman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article reprinted with permission from the Pragmatic Manager.