On-task Time

I was at the SD Best Practices conference earlier this week, both speaking and sitting in on sessions.

One session I attended cited data on the average time spent on-task — working directly on a task that shows up on the project plan.

The average task time across 200 projects was 15 hours a week. That means 25 hours a week not spend on getting the product out the door.

Even I found this a little surprising.

The speaker, Noopur Davis, was looking at project teams who were using the Team Software Process (TSP) out of SEI. So it’s a high discipline method and I’m guessing there’s some process overhead in the organizations. But 25 hours?

Whether you believe the results Davis reported or not, it points the need to verify assumptions about how much time teams are spending getting the product out the door.

One thing I’ve done is ask people to track their time for just a week or two to get a read on “task time.”

I suspect that in many cases you can increase task time (and probably boost morale, too) with some fairly simple interventions.

In any case, knowing — rather than assuming or guessing — how much time people actually spend “on task” can only help people manage projects.