I wrote a few months ago about the ups and downs of level loading. The concept took some time to fully grasp, and after a recent conversation, I can present a new analogy for this project management term that can affect anyone.
Let’s say you have a large crew of mechanics working on a larger volume of vehicles.
A few of the mechanics should be working on the most difficult problems, most of them should be working on reducing the vehicle queue, and a few should be lube techs getting the simple problems wrapped up quickly. You’d ideally like to rotate duties, so everyone gets equal experience, and you don’t burn out any mechanics.
That was the technology field just as I was entering it in 2008.
Now, at best, you have a small crew of technicians rotating duties equally. More often, you’ll have duties siloed. You might staff one or two techs resolving the quick or emergency work, one or two difficult problem techs, and one or two project techs, if that. That’s not level loaded, which means, your field’s equivalent of a lube technician takes care of all of the easy work that can make their numbers look better.
Here’s a rough template for re-achieving a healthy balance on a monthly basis:
- How many items the team worked on:
- …were high priority or high profile?
- …could have been resolved by a different team?
- …needed to be readdressed? Or were revisits?
- Take a look at who did what:
- What do the numbers look like per person?
- Are the numbers uneven or well balanced?
- If they’re uneven, what do the trends say?
- Imagine worst case scenarios:
- What would happen if any one person left?
- What work is soloed to one or two people?
- Where are the procedures/documents stored?
- Try to implement new strategies:
- Can workloads be exchanged?
- Are customers providing any feedback?
- Are the staff providing any feedback?
In an ideal world, it shouldn’t matter who tackles an issue, be it a car or a computer, because they should all be able to handle any basic issue. In a realistic world, you have technicians with skills and weaknesses with some trying to do the easy work. When you have people divvying out the work, that can help the balance, but in most situations, it’s about grabbing what work you can while being respectful to your team’s workload and your customer’s time.