If your development staff is being fully utilized, are you really getting 100% productivity? Not according to a recent article in the Harvard Business Review. In that article they seek to dispell six myths about product development including the idea that high utilization of resources will improve performance. One of the reasons that high utilization can be detremental to productivity is the impact of highly variable tasks which are not easily predicted.
Processes with high variability behave very differently. As utilization increases, delays lengthen dramatically. (See the exhibit “High Utilization Leads to Delays.”) Add 5% more work, and completing it may take 100% longer. But few people understand this effect. — Harvard Business Review
One of the key reasons that these myths exist is the desire by companies to treat product development the same as manufacturing. Manufacturing management and productivity controls do not lend themselves well to product development.
In product development many tasks are unique, project requirements constantly change, and the output—thanks, in part, to the widespread use of advanced computer-aided design and simulation and the incorporation of software in physical products—is information, which can reside in multiple places at the same time. — Harvard Business Review
The other myths they seek to disprove include the following:
- Processing work in large batches will be more economical.
- Teams need to faithfully follow their development plan, minimizing any deviations from it.
- The sooner a project is started, the sooner it will be finished.
- The more features a product has, the better customers will like it.
- Projects will be more successful if teams “get them right the first time.”
So how do you think these myths are being propogated in software development? What are some of the ways you have found to differentiate software develoment from manufacturing principles? Hit the comment links and let us know.
Editors Note: Reading the full article requires either a subscription to the Harvard Business Review or the purchase of a PDF.