Do we get a productivity boost from overtime? Yes, but we need to make sure that we limit this overtime to short bursts of a few weeks. And there is a trade-off involved; as Daniel Cook says in a great productivity presentation, “When you crunch, you pay.”
Dan’s research tells us that we need to plan for an equivalent reduction in productivity immediately after crunch time. He graphically illustrates this as follows:
As you can see, we get a temporary boost in productivity with overtime, but if we attempt to work overtime for extended periods of time our productivity begins to reverse and it can actually go negative. And no matter how you slice it, anything over 40 hours results in a recovery period.
What about teams? In his slide deck Dan shows us how overtime will trend with an agile team:
Of course, agile teams should be embracing sustainable development, shouldn’t they?
But there is a good leadership lesson here: working an existing system harder won’t achieve sustainable, long-term gains. If you aren’t reaching your desired objectives and you attempt to compensate by demanding overtime, it is predictable that productivity will temporarily increase – giving you a comfortable feeling that you’ve righted the ship – but your gains will be short-lived and productivity will level itself out in the long run.
What are your options?
- Focus on throughput. Find sustainable ways to accelerate completion rates of work by increasing collaboration, combining tasks and eliminating overhead that isn’t adding value.
- Add another team to provide greater capacity.
- Adjust your expectations on either the delivery date or the scope.