Wednesday, August 15, 2007

How do you spend your "working hours"

Well now this is interesting. Upper management just circulated an email to everyone asking us to break down what we're working on and how we spend our time...

...And that's an interesting question; because as I've opined here before, most of my working hours are wasted waiting for other people.

Anyway, I broke it out just now, and I thought I'd share a bit (sanitized of course).

My working months vary between 144 and 192 hours, with a typical month having 168 or 176 hours; or 21-22 working days.

I currently have 42 active "tactical" projects (we call them something else of course), and six tactical projects that are on hold or pending (which is actually a lot less than usual). Of those 48 projects, probably 12 of them involve ongoing effort on my part right now; and I typically receive between 4 and 8 new tactical projects per week, averaging out to 6.

The problem with time estimation on these, is that the tactical projects require anything from a few minutes (we charge a minimum of 2 hours time though), to 32 hours (we charge a maximum of 24) of effort to complete. Given the nature and frequency of the outliers, I would say a typical project takes 2 hours however, and at around 24 new projects a month, you can make a half decent guess at 48 hours, to as high as 72 hours.

Now, I also have what I'll call "strategic" projects. These are ongoing projects that sometimes last more than a year. They meet anywhere from twice weekly for two hours each meeting, down to an hour monthly; so each project is between 1 and 24 hours per month. Typical would be 4 hours a month though; for 56 hours.

We're up to 104-128 hours already.

Next, I also have enterprise architecture assignments; which are projects which cover technology development for the entire enterprise. I typically receive anywhere from 2-4 a month as a concurring architect (which means I have to approve the project for it to proceed), another 2-4 as an "interested" architect (which means my input is required but not my approval), and one or so every other month as a lead architect (which means I run the project).

Again, these projects vary widely in time required. As a concurring architect they'll typically take 4-8 hours. As an interest architect it's more like 2-4 hours. Lead assignments though can take anywhere from 8 to as much as 24 hours (or rarely, even more).

I figure, on average it's only about 24 hours a month.

...And that brings us up to 128-152 hours already. Rubbing up against the bottom edge of my monthly hours pool.

Then there's all the tasks not specifically related to any particular project or initiative, like research, product and technology education, and adminsitrative tasks like time tracking and paperwork.

That adds up to an average of about 40 hours a month; because a lot of what I do can be pegged to specific projects (otherwise it would be a lot more).

168-192 hours... which is my entire work month.

Just one problem...

I have 6 to 8 hours a week of non-project related staff and status meeting. That's 24-32 hours a month, when I've already accounted for all my hours.

This is why I frequently say I'm very busy not doing very much. I'm SCHEDULED for more hours than there are in the month... but very little actually gets done during at least half of those hours... sometimes as much as 3/4 of those hours.

Obviously, I can't be there for more hours than there are in the working month (overtime of any kind is not allowed at this company because of issues they've had with the commerce and labor departments) so I end up double and even triple booked for three out of five days in the work week. Amazingly enough I only have three hours of regularly scheduled meetings or activities on Mondays and Fridays; so everything else gets crammed in on Tuesday, Wednesday,and Thursday when I basically spend the entire day from 10am to 3pm on the phone.

Why just 10-3 Tuesday through Thursday?

Because those are the times when they can actually get the "full time" employees to work. If I send an email or leave a voicemail after noon on a Friday, I can just about guarantee you I won't get a response 'til Tuesday. I get bursts of email at 8am, at noon, and at 3pm, and almost never see any email after 3. I certainly never get a call returned after 2pm unless it's from one of my Pacific timezone colleagues.

Now that isn't to say that all my co-workers are like this. I have some very good solid guys (and ladies) that I work with who put in the effort, and the hours... but the great morass of the beurocracy and "process", and "project management" and "co-ordination" just soaks it all up.

... but if I really broke it down, as to how much actual work I do, vs how much time wasting crap I do on a monthly basis... well, I don't like the numbers. I figure maybe 1/4 of my time is spent doing actual useful work on an average month... maybe half if I'm lucky on a good month; and the rest is bullshit time wasting.

Hell of a way to run a business aint it.