The following is always one of my favorite examples of why “starting less” is almost always “finishing more”. I am presenting two Gantt charts with four projects each. The charts respresent 12 equal periods going across, a year if you count each period as a month. Let’s assume each project requires 12 man-months of effort and that work effort can be divided across multiple skilled resources. In scenario 1, all four projects are started at the beginning of the tracking timeframe, with equal resources allocated to each, finishing 12 periods later.
In the second scenario, only one of the four projects is started, with maximimum resourcing allocated to that one project. It completes within 3 periods, at which time the next project is started, and so on. In this scenario, all four projects are also completed within 12 periods, but the organization is much better off!
Why is the organization better off in scenario 2? There are lots of reasons – the most basic is that the benefits from the first project deliverable begin accruing 9 periods sooner. If projects are prioritized based on benefits, presumably the first project would have had the highest benefits and the value would come online 9 periods sooner. Likewise, the second and third projects would have had benefits streaming 6 and 3 periods earlier, with only the fourth project being on a par between the two scenarios. What are other benefits? Since priorities are changing all the time, after each project completion in scenario 2, the next best project to start can be re-evaluated (flexibility). Also, the shorter the timeframe from inception to completion, the less other risk factors come into play including attention span, business changes and staff turnover.
Of course, there is one huge assumption here, and that is that tasks are truly divisable and this is not always the case – so the universal message is always staff for success with a critical mass of resources to deliver benefit as quickly as possible based on the tasks required.