andytuba's head
Housekeeping Tips from Mom
Shitposting about resilience engineering with ADHD
– andytuba (they or he)

Bite off more than you can chew--and spit it out

If you plan your quarter to take on a little more work than you expect you can accomplish, then you'll always have something worth doing--but it's more likely you'll drop some projects.

(This is how we practice quarterly project planning at work, not actually tips from my mom.)


Bite off more than you can chew ... #

Before the quarter begins, plan:

  1. Pick a bunch of projects and write up high-level proposals for them.
  2. Ask the engineering team to provide high-level estimates for how long it should take for each project.
  3. Pick a bunch of projects that should take just over a quarter's worth of time.

... look at the rest of your plate, ... #

Halfway through the quarter (before everyone starts to worry "will we fail at our stated goals?"):

  1. Look at how much progress the engineering team has made on each project, and how confident they feel at completing each project.
  2. Look at new project requests that have come in since the quarter began.

... and SPIT SOME OUT. #

Now is the time to "fail early" and cut losses, so you can move your the goalposts clarify (or even change outright) what "success" means.

  1. Decide which projects to scale back, cancel, reschedule--or add in.

Maybe finish chewing? #

Towards the end of the quarter:

  1. If there's free time, decide which cancelled projects to revive. Because there's already inertia in the form of plans and work already done, they should be easier to pick up than scrambling to build whole new plans.
  2. If there's still free time, let workers pick their own projects. People usually have good ideas on what deserves time spent.

How to make this less painful #

Remind everyone that real-world project management is hard #

Build up knowledge #

Regularly host "blameless post-mortem" retrospectives regularly for incidents, projects, and the most recent work period. Write down situation, behavior, and impact. Share the notes with the class. Make retrospectives easy to host and record using templates, video recording, and a facilitator to run logistics and move along discussion.

External accountability #

Even when people are intrinsically motivated to do the work and manage their own systems to ensure projects get done in a timely manner, it's not a joke that "projects, like gas, expand in scope to fill the available space in the cacalendar." So, capitalist management exists to try and decide what's worth working on and ask the workers to follow through on that.