Full capacity isn’t effective capacity

“Sally doesn’t have enough work this Sprint, we need to load her up more.” 

“We don’t have a choice, leadership said we have to take on all these stories because they have to get done this Sprint.” 

If you’ve never heard either of these statements before, you should feel fortunate. For the rest of us we tend to fall into one of two camps when we hear statements like these. Camp 1- Buckle down, load up the team, and make sure everyone on the team is fully loaded. Camp 2- No, just no. 

Little’s Law and the related Kingsman’s Formula give us all the math on why this is a bad idea. The math tells us the more you shove in the system the longer and longer you have to wait for something to come out of the system. And yet, we keep doing it. The math doesn’t lie, so why do we keep doing it? 

My opinion? As humans we like to think of ourselves as the exception and that it doesn’t apply. Well, as the famous James Montgomery Scott, of the Original Star Trek TV show says “You canna break the laws of physics.” 

So, I offer you a more humorous and  visual way to explain to your leaders why you don’t want to overload your teams and make sure every team member is at 100% capacity. 

“What do you call a freeway at 100% capacity?” 

Answer- “A parking lot!” 

“What do you call a freeway at 150% capacity?”

Answer- “A traffic accident!” 

Stop overloading your teams. Give them some slack to breath, to innovate, and to respond to changing conditions. 

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