LagTime


" … just another unrealistic expectation encountering reality again."

Project people are forever trying to calculate how much time their project will take to complete. It's a non-trivial calculation utterly dependent upon unknowns, so assumptions rule the effort. In the best of all possible worlds, a task that should take no more than two days might easily consume a week or more, and not because those assigned to it slack off. I used to guide my workshop participants through an exercise intended to help them calculate more realistic flow times. How much time does an individual scheduled for forty hours of work in a week actually have at their disposal to apply to work during that week? It was always a shocker when the average answer came out to be around sixteen hours. The balance of the work week would be spent on absolutely necessary, non-value add activities which could not properly be catalogued as being 'on task.' The actual available time would prove to actually be available for assigned work, but little more. The number varied little between industries and over time. This might represent something of a universal principle in action.

A colleague explained to me what it's like to work in a startup. He said it was as if everything required the invention of a pencil.
Before the organization had been organized, every activity carried significant LagTime before it could begin and suffered considerable lagging delays due to the lack of infrastructure. A supplier would need to be found, not simply pinged before critical material could be delivered. Cash flows remained unstable, financing tenuous. Skilled workers needed to be recruited, not simply assigned, so everything took much longer to start and finish than it seemed it should. Start-ups crawl or they do not move at all. Once the organization's put together, people complain about the bureaucracy, which brings its own Lags into the process.

I crawl, too. Some days seem ruled by LagTime. My good intentions can't seem to overcome the inertia of stasis. I find a half dozen urgent imperatives between me and what I expected to engage in. Maybe I'm expecting an important call and even with a cell, I find myself tethered to the house lest the spotty cell coverage out there prohibit my receiving the call. I waited the whole day yesterday for the call that never came. It came this morning, but turned out to be inconclusive, with more questions remaining after than before it came, so we started another round of waiting for the call, creating fresh LagTime between me and what I thought would come next.

I should not be surprised when most of any day disappears down the LagTime hole. By the time the second call comes in, the second day's about shot. I later receive a text message which suggests that the message I thought I'd conveyed might have been misunderstood. I see another LagTime dance looming before me. When I worked in project management, my clients would wonder why they could never finish a project on time. They almost universally presumed that the people assigned to their efforts could work at least 80% of their allocated time on project tasks, when the actual available time was less than half that. They could not get over the cognitive anchor insisting that people simply must work almost forty task hours each week, even though the client couldn't and never had. Peak efficiency might be around 40% if it's pushed, but that's hardly a sustainable number. Why do people take their jobs home with them? Because the workplace is hostile to getting anything done, swarming with stalking LagTime.

The Muse worked from home yesterday. She still suited up and complained about how cold it is in her home office, but she got several times more than normal done because she worked from home, relatively unencumbered by distractions, disruptions, and the other LagTime overheads common to every workplace these days. GoogleMaps insists that I can drive to Salt Lake City in eight hours, but I've never made it in under ten. This whole world underestimates everything then complains about the overrun. It was never an overrun, just another unrealistic expectation encountering reality again.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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