How do you know the amount of work you can responsibly take on at the individual, team, or company level? Are you investing time in yourself and your company for growth in capacity and capabilities? Does growth happen in fits and bursts or are you growing in a disciplined fashion?
Size and capabilities are important considerations for healthy business performance. Growing too big can invite risk of overshooting demand. Flexibility is limited from being too small or not having the right balance of skills. Your offering can become unprofitably commoditized or irrelevant if you are not consistently shaping your execution model, services, or products.
One of the reasons we track time at Atomic is so we can manage our size and capabilities of our offices to best meet demand for our services.
This is the fifth in a series on the benefits of detailed time tracking:
- Atomic’s Approach to Time Tracking
- Time Tracking for Focus
- Time Tracking for Fairness
- Time Tracking for Sustainability
- Time Tracking for Growth
Individual Growth (Professional Dev.)
One of Atomic’s value mantras is “Teach and Learn,” and it’s an expectation that individuals are continuously growing and investing in their professional development.
My historical time data helps me manage my future professional development goals and commitments by seeing how much time I can reasonably invest in growth opportunities.
For instance, my time data over the last year shows I’m making progress on my goals to:
- Increase my involvement in initiative-based work and load-share some operational responsibilities
- Increase my time spent coaching and mentoring other Atoms
- Focus my involvement in professional and community groups
- Receive more coaching and structured feedback
Personal growth happens incrementally over the course of time while spending the majority of my focus on primary responsibilities. Reviewing my time data helps me appreciate my efforts and recognize my growth. Tracking my time also helps me stay accountable to my goals.
Team Growth (Capacity Allocations)
Atomic’s time tracking data informs our team assignments for client projects. Time data also helps us appropriately increase team size if we want to accelerate the delivery schedule.
Time data from historical projects has helped inform base-level team patterns for common project types. When starting a new project, we can make informed capacity allocation decisions that will help the team execute effectively.
For instance, a common team pattern for starting a sizable mobile or web project is:
- 1 Delivery Lead, half time
- 1 Designer, half time
- 2 Developers, full time
- 1 Exploratory Tester, part time
We can use a team model like the one above and a project’s budget to model the project’s schedule and manage capacity allocation decisions across multiple projects.
Our time data helps us more precisely model average, full-time and part-time hours contributions over a project’s duration by factoring in:
- Hours per week normally worked
- The likely effect of paid time off or time spent on professional development opportunities like conference attendance
Developer hours are usually the bottleneck to getting a project done, but adding more developers will require additional hours from existing team members. If we add developers to a team, we can use our data-driven patterns to forecast and schedule the additional hours needed for delivery, design, and testing capacity.
Teams track planned and actual hours spent so they can tune their future capacity needs based on their project’s specific circumstances. This data-driven approach allows individual teams to inform office-level capacity and scheduling commitments across all teams.
Growth in size
Atomic’s size as a company is driven by the size of our offices. Time data helps Atomic start, grow, and maintain our office-level teams.
For Atomic, growth in size isn’t a goal unto itself. Growth of an existing office or establishing a new office is carefully considered.
Our time data informs the right blend of capacity and skills at the office level so teams can work in a co-located fashion and execute effectively. Time data also helps us make informed decisions about the office-level management and coordination capacity needed for a particular office size.
For instance, we can make data-driven decisions about:
- The ratios of delivery lead, designer, developer, and exploratory tester capacity that will allow for flexibility in team scheduling and effective project execution
- The ratio of junior to senior team members that will allow for responsible project execution while still hiring younger practitioners that energize our Teach and Learn value mantra
- The amount of sales time needed to keep an office of a particular size busy
- Time required for office-level management and coordination activities
Having the actual time data to inform the above capacity decisions allows us to plan and execute for the long-term based on reality. We can look at actual, historical time and utilization data instead of making decisions based on subjective feelings or recent experiences with short-term project needs.
Growth in excellence
For Atomic, growth is also about enrichment, continuous learning, and refinement.
Tracking time allows us to see how we are:
- Allocating time for working on the business and investing in office-level or company-wide enrichment initiatives
- Investing in paid learning and professional development opportunities
- Growing new disciplines and focused areas of responsibility (like when we formalized our delivery lead role)
- Spreading responsibility for important activities like marketing contributions through our blog or professional community involvement
I believe growth in excellence is more important than growth in size. Size can amplify success but it can also amplify pain. I’ve come to find that you should grow in excellence before and after you grow in size. This allows you to grow from a position of strength and iron out any emergent concerns resulting from growth in size.
This post is part a series on the case for detailed time tracking and how time tracking supports healthy performance.
- Atomic’s Co-CEO Model, Part 1 – Rationale - October 8, 2020
- Keeping Sight of True North During a Crisis - May 4, 2020
- The case for detailed time tracking, part 5 – Growth - March 28, 2018
- The case for detailed time tracking, part 4 – Sustainability - February 9, 2018
- The case for detailed time tracking, part 3 – Fairness - December 20, 2017