Getting Out of Our Ways
Finding The Time To Complete Tasks
I always believed that the time given to produce any single amount of work was fixed. You might argue that this is only theoretical, and that in reality things get in the way to hinder the progress. But if you pay attention, I was referring to “single” amount of work. Fine, work cannot be measured, neither by the efforts spent, nor by results achieved, but bear with me for a moment.
The time it takes both you and me to write the alphabet on a piece of paper is almost the same (given the quality of letters written is the same). The time needed to copy an article is also pretty identical. But the time you need to write a letter to a friend, totally differs from the time I need to do the same task, even if we end up writing identical letters.
In software reality, the time it takes a team to finish a task depends largely on the phases that task goes through; the less phases, the more identical time frame. So if time was so limited, you might argue with your project manager about how limited time is, and how much more time you need. If time was even more limited, you wouldn’t argue! Because you cannot afford to lose the time with argument.
A couple of weeks ago, we faced one very tight-scheduled task, that sent me reflecting on it afterwards (did not have time to reflect on it during progress!). We were supposed to prepare 1500 uniquely bar coded
cards with Arabic text on it, and we had one week to do that. In a regular process, that task needed resources; two developers, one designer, network administrator, and a project manager, full time. In a regular day, we needed to purchase a fast printer, or take our time to print 1500 cards. In a sunny beautiful evening, all these cards would go into testing and so would the end product (a solution to read the barcodes and enter calculated results to the database).
That was not a regular task, so we had to drop… everything! We could not sit down to assign resources, we had no time to estimate time and money, we could not afford to print at our pace, and we did not have the luxury of bringing low-budget tools, and required software. We all got out of our ways to get things done instead. In little or no time, we had a basic program written to handle barcode calculations, and another program to produce barcode images from numerical ranges. We had four barcode readers purchased, and a network setup through so much security restrictions. We worked around to produce Arabic text since we had no Arabic based software in hand. And we sought extreme help in getting the cards and printing them. We did things we do not normally do because had we had enough time, at least we could have thought it through!
The magical ingredient: TEAM COMMUNICATION. The reward: we still made the best of it and learned so much.