“The devil is in the details” as the famous idiom goes, couldn’t more appropriate in the world of transformation and M&A integration projects. In fact, missing out crucial details can mean the difference between success and failure. Take the example of using capacity as a measure of readiness of a project team. Teams calculate project plans and milestones based on spare capacity (or % time) of their work schedule that can be leveraged for a project. However, the assumption is based on full availability during the project. This is where project plans can go off track. To a common person, capacity and availability can be used interchangeably during a project. However, on deeper inspection, it reveals that there are critical differences between the two. Capacity is calculated based on the current workload of an individual and this is a combination of day to day work and some ad hoc requests that needs to be met during the course of a normal work day. Availability on the other side is a combination of spare capacity (during a normal work day) as well as time off from active work (both planned and unplanned). Let’s look at a typical Western European “availability” calendar of an average mid- level manager.
It would look something like this:
- 1st week of January: time off
- 1 week off during late February for skiing holidays
- End of march-April: Extended Easter holidays
- End April/Early May: School holidays (many parents take time off)
- Mid-July to mid-Aug: 2-3 weeks annual vacation
- 1 week in October
- 1 week at X-Mas
- Bank holidays throughout the year and some bridge days (extending the vacation time by taking extra time off when a bank holiday falls on a Thursday or a Tuesday)
Let’s add some work-related activities that make people unavailable:
- Month-end, quarter-end and year-end financial closing for finance teams
- Appraisal cycles for HR teams
- System updates and change black-out periods (anywhere between mid-Nov till mid-Jan) for IT folks
- Audits (for compliance and operations)
Let’s add some more work-related activities:
- Business meetings
And some more:
- Travel especially to different time zones (it limits the common working time of a work day)
- Global teams supporting projects (when people from APAC, Europe and US participate on projects, the only time that is more convenient for meetings is couple of hours in the European afternoon)
And even more:
- Getting a time-slot for team meetings based on availability of team members and other support teams (i.e. people do not have other meetings or engagements, travel during the proposed time-slot). Maybe once a week if you are lucky. And let’s not forget the seasonal sick days!!
I think I have said enough about “availability” to make my case.Next time, make it a point to use a calendar to mark out people’s “availability” rather
than just considering the capacity of an individual.