Elevate Task Performance by Eliminating Multitasking

Multitasking is the performance of multiple project tasks at the same time. Some people refer to it as the "fractional head count." Humans are not too good at rubbing their tummies and patting their heads at the same time. People actually multitask by dividing out time between the multiple tasks. People might do this during the course of the day by working on one project in the morning and one in the afternoon.

Most people think of multitasking as a good way to improve efficiency. It ensures everyone is busy all of the time. Often I have to wait for inputs or for someone to call back before I can get on with a task. Multitasking makes good use of this time.

Goldratt demonstrates in The Goal how focus on local efficiency can damage the overall performance of a system. He uses the example of robots, which are operated all of the time in order to show high efficiency. In the case of production, this produces excess inventory and may plug the constraint with work not necessary for current orders, increasing operating expenses and delivery times, with no positive benefit to the company as a whole.

Multitasking on project tasks has a much worse impact. Consider a person who has to do three one-week tasks for three different projects (see Figure 4.10). If that person were permitted to work exclusively on each one, the first project would have its result in one week, the second project at the end of the second week, and the third project at the end of the third week. If the task performer multitasks, spending for example one third of his or her time each day on each project, none of the projects gets its output until the end of the third week. All three tasks have a three-week duration, potentially extending the overall duration of each project.

If multitasking is a normal way of doing business in a company, three weeks becomes the normal task duration. Performance data supports this inflated task duration. If these are critical-chain tasks, the practice directly extends project durations. Most companies admit to encouraging extensive multitasking.

CCPM seeks to eliminate this type of multitasking by eliciting 100% focus on the project task at hand by all resources supporting the project. Thus, eliminating

Task A

Task B

Task C

Figure 4.10 Multi-tasking extends project task duration

"fractional head counts" is a primary consideration in planning a critical-chain project. CCPM also requires providing resources information to determine which task I work on next.

I am often asked, "Isn't it a manager's job to multitask?" or "What if I am held up on one project task?" My answer is to clarify that there can be good multitasking. Bad multitasking is multitasking that extends the duration of a project task. As long as you position yourself and your project work to avoid bad multitasking, you are contributing your best to the project team.

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Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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