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Capacity challenge: Make significant changes without disrupting daily operations

Bring on the projects, we can do it! Sound familiar? Does it feel as though the projects in your organization are adding up, piling up and speeding up? Do you feel like your organization is changing? This is a reality for many businesses. We sometimes tend to overestimate our teams’ capacity to deliver projects – and the organization’s capacity to integrate the changes that those projects bring. We need to assign equal importance to both the former AND the latter – our capacity to deliver AND our capacity to integrate. 

You don’t make a plant grow by pulling on its stem, you make it grow by providing the needed elements: the correct amount of water, proper lighting, fertilizer at the right time and sometimes a stake to coax the plant to grow in the right direction.

I would like to offer you some food, along with tools to help you succeed in your transformation projects while preserving your operations.

The cost of poor capacity management 

Poorly managed capacity can be costly. There are many potential consequences, at several levels:  

  • Human resources: burnout, turnover
  • Operational: Unrealized profits, project delays, cost overruns, issues with ongoing operations
  • Customer relations: longer wait times, billing errors, etc.

We want to avoid this at all costs. 

Two levels of capacity assessment 

Whether you use sophisticated software or a simple spreadsheet, what counts is to be able to monitor capacity continuously on two levels: 

  1. Individual 
  2. Team / division 

Individual capacity: We need to assess all the elements that “drain” capacity: 

  • Tasks done to meet business needs 
  • Input to various projects 
  • Attendance at various meetings
  • Participation in training
  • ...    

If demand exceeds 40% of an employee’s normal capacity for an extended period of time, the employee is at risk and adjustments are needed.

Team/division capacity: Division capacity issues are often overlooked. A given division may have less capacity available at certain times of the year – it may be wise, for instance, to avoid rolling out significant changes in the finance division at the end of a fiscal year. This should be taken into account to avoid the above-mentioned consequences. 

A capacity management trap to avoid: Letting a timeline dictate the organization’s capacity!  

There are various avenues to explore for freeing up capacity: 

  • Postponing the roll-out of a solution even once it is ready to go
  • Hiring temporary employees
  • Calling in retirees to help out 
  • Putting a temporary hold on non-essential activities 

Improving how we manage our capacity to deliver and integrate gives us a much better chance of succeeding in our business transformations. Pass it along! 

Natalie Hubert

Director and Senior Consultant
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