Understanding Effectiveness


- Bryce's Law

It's been a while since I've discussed the concept of "effectiveness" but I was recently up in Cincinnati and saw it in action again. This time, I happened to be visiting my brother-in-law who had hired a crew to tear down some dead trees on his property. I went outside to enjoy a cigar and watch the activity. There were three workers who tended to their own individual tasks most of the time; one was busy cutting wood, one was concerned with splitting wood, and one was responsible for hauling it away. When each tended to their own task, they were very productive, but when they grouped together to perform something collectively, I noticed their output dropped significantly as it seemed two watched one work.

The concept of effectiveness is derived from plant construction by the DuPont Company in Delaware over half a century ago and is primarily concerned with the use of time by workers. In their study, it was discovered that workers were only working 25% of the available time (on the average). This meant that a construction worker was only at labor two hours during an eight hour workday. This led to two other conclusions; first, effectiveness was not the same as efficiency it was merely the analysis of the use of available time during the day. And second, such analysis was invaluable for scheduling purposes. To illustrate, if it is estimated that it takes ten (10) hours of whole work (aka, "Direct" work), and if the worker's "effectiveness rate" was 25%, then the elapsed time to complete the work is five (5) days. This element alone greatly contributed to calculating reliable schedules.

We have applied this principle in our approach to project management and found it to be an invaluable technique for calculating schedules, particularly among systems and software personnel who are typically 70% effective during the day (as are most office workers).

The concept also points out that nobody can be 100% effective during the day. Inevitably, there are interferences which interrupt our work, such as meetings, phone calls, breaks, etc. Further, it would be foolish for employees to compete over high effectiveness rates. Although management would like to see high rates, in all likelihood workers are misquoting the use of their time (thinking it is a reflection of their efficiency, which it most certainly is not). To illustrate, a senior person who is perhaps highly efficient at his job may have a low effectiveness rate (has many interferences); in contrast, a young worker who is not as proficient may have a much higher effectiveness rate. This just means the younger person knows how to manage his time better than the senior worker.

Effectiveness also helps to delineate the responsibilities of the worker and the manager in terms of planning and project execution. It is up to the individual worker to manage the "Direct" time, and it is up to the manager to manage the "Indirect" time, representing the interferences. This supports the "Mini-Project Manager" concept whereby the worker prepares the estimates of Direct time to complete a task, and management applies the worker's "effectiveness rate" to calculate the schedule. The manager then monitors the "Indirect" time to assure the task is completed as scheduled.

There was also one last interesting observation made in this regard: Effectiveness diminishes as more people are added to a single task. After all, only so many hands can be applied to a given task. Too many will result in people standing back and waiting for others to complete the task. Because of this phenomenon, management resorts to a "divide and conquer" strategy whereby the work is broken into smaller and more manageable pieces.

It's interesting what you observe when you stop to enjoy a good cigar, but then again, I wasn't being very effective was I?

NOTE: For more information on this subject, see "PRIDE" Project Management at: http://www.phmainstreet.com/mba/pride/pm.htm

If you would like to discuss this with me in more depth, please do not hesitate to send me an e-mail.

Keep the faith.


About the Author

Tim Bryce is a writer and management consultant with M. Bryce & Associates of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the field. He is available for lecturing, training and consulting on an international basis. He can be reached at [email protected]
Comments and questions are welcome.

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Copyright © 2008 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.


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