High resource utilization does not guarantee high performance

High resource utilization does not guarantee high performance

As a product development manager, you're constantly struggling to bring in your projects on time and under budget. The response of most managers is to utilize 100 percent of human capital. Counterintuitively, high utilization of resources does not correlate with higher performance. In fact, this strategy may lead to the delayed completion of projects.


In product development, your output is unique and continually subject to change. At 100-percent utilization, it is difficult for your workforce to work effectively, particularly on less predictable tasks. It becomes more challenging to plan your allocation of team members and resources effectively.

Product development doesn't scale linearly. Developmental tasks are, by their very nature, unknown. It can be impossible to predict when they will be completed. Scheduling tasks employees have never pursued before is intrinsically uncertain.

Since it is difficult to predict the workload, your development team may become unintentionally overburdened, leading to significant delays. Queuing theory predicts that as utilization of resources increases, the amount of time projects spend awaiting attention increases. According Stefan Thomke and Donald Reinertsen writing in the Harvard Business Review, if you add 5 percent more work, completing it may take 100 percent longer.

What to do about it

1)  Keep the work in view

Making your work in progress easier to visualize and track will aid in adjusting the time and resources allotted to each task. One visualization tool is a task board: listing what duties are assigned, the steps to completion and order in which to perform them. As each item is checked off, you and your team can see precisely how a project is progressing. If a task is lagging, team members can identify problems and collaborate on the determination of solutions.

2)  Set priorities

Prioritize works in progress, recognizing which projects require focus. Create a scoring process that will be objective for every task. Consider that conflicts will occur because of unplanned events. Encourage your team to resolve them based on both your immediate and more far-reaching goals.

Concentrate on the most constrained resources and how they can be made available where they are most needed. This strategy will enable you to devote the right resources to the most vital areas at the most effective time. As essential tasks are completed, resources are freed up for secondary ones.

3)  Reduce utilization

Decrease the number of active projects. Determine what is absolutely necessary to meet the goals of your company. Monitor any unplanned work that can drain your team's capacity and create unnecessary delays. As the congestion in your pipeline decreases, it will enable you to achieve sharper focus and devote your resources to the best effect.

In areas where your utilization rate is 70 percent or higher, expanding your capacity by adding resources can significantly reduce waiting time. Your challenge is how to obtain them, particularly regarding qualified product development team members. You may have little or no time to train new people, and positions requiring the type of expertise to hit the ground running can be difficult or impossible to fill.

We can help

Syncroness can increase your capacity immediately and help you reach reasonable levels of utilization. Our nimble organization has the engineering experts to provide that critical expansion while working seamlessly with your in-house staff. We quickly grasp new technologies. Our proactive solutions will bring your product to market as efficiently as possible. Contact us today to learn how we can put your product development on a faster track.

Smaller batches speed product development

Smaller batches speed product development

Launching Pigs?

Launching Pigs?