Anything to get the job done, right? On time delivery at any cost (well, any cost except for monetary cost). Well, not exactly. On too many projects, especially ones where meeting the completion date is critical, overtime is the norm rather than the rule. If your projects are anything like mine, you’ve probably found that periodic overtime is fine, but if taken to the extreme, it can have long-term effects on your team members and influence overall performance on the project. Nearly every project has a crunch time. Some project schedule time needs to be caught up, extra effort is needed to push through some issue resolution prior to testing, or the very common ‘all hands on deck’ project deployment scenario comes into play.
From a behavioral perspective, extensive overtime can often result in resource burnout, which can be an all too common occurrence in certain industries – including IT. Burnout can lead to omissions and errors, project rework and scrapped work, team member frustration, customer dissatisfaction, and an overall solution that isn’t what the customer wants. All of these can lead to lower productivity and project failure.
From a schedule, cost, and quality perspective, excessive overtime has an effect, too. The biggest one here is cost. The need for excessive overtime is usually the result of one or more of several issues: poor schedule planning, unexpected problems, bad requirements, a management-by-crisis situation, poorly trained people, inadequate equipment or facilities, low morale, or lack of teamwork. All of these can and will wreak havoc on the project budget. No project budget can survive an extended period of resource overtime – meaning that even if you do straighten things out and deliver a final, workable product to the customer, they may still be very unsatisfied due to the delivery of a solution with a large project budget overrun.
Performance can suffer
If you’re running a project where you know you might run into a lot of overtime, or needed, keep in mind that your overworked team members’ performance can become impaired. As stated above, too much overtime is symptomatic of major project management problems. If excessive overtime becomes the norm, serious replanning is required to avoid a complete breakdown of the project financials.
On mission critical projects – and any project since the beginning of time that has ever run into any dire or very challenging situation – overtime and resource overuse is almost a given. Even on smooth running projects, no one can ever guarantee that your project won’t need an injection of resource overtime at some point. The key way to help ensure this won’t be necessary is to spend enough time during the planning phases of the project making the project schedule realistic, fully defining detailed project requirements, setting proper customer and senior management expectations so huge effort pushes never become the norm, and making sure that project communications are being handled effectively and efficiently so that expectations and task performance never get too far off track.