Capacity Planning


Stop making assumptions about your bandwidth and start planning your capacity, as a team. 

USE THIS PLAY TO...

Understand your team's true capacity

Take the guess-work out of estimation and prioritization exercises 

If you're struggling with balanced team , or velocity on your Health Monitor, running this play might help.

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AND I NEED THIS... WHY?

If your world is like ours, your dependencies are multiplying and timelines and resources are shrinking. To deliver quality work we need data about our team's true capacity. Sure, you can find a fancy tool to calculate this for you (or can you?...) or you can spend 30 minutes with your team to get a capacity estimate that is good enough to make the decisions you need to ensure your team is healthy and your projects are delivered on time. 

When you're in a hurry, which is always these days, capacity planning is the most critical part of planning that gets skipped. So whether you take 30 min to do this as a team, complete it asynchronously or include it in your project kick-off, make sure you set and review your team's time to avoid making capacity assumptions that derail your project. 

WHO SHOULD BE INVOLVED?

Include your project leader all contributors. If you're working with 3rd-party vendors to deliver this project, bring them in as well. 

User Team
People

3 - 8

Measure Clock
Time

30 min

Difficulty Easy
Difficulty

Easy

Running the play

Prior to the session, ask everyone to observe and consider writing down what activities, formal and informal, make up their weeks. This will help with accuracy and expedite the first part of the activity.

Materials

Whiteboard or butcher's paper

Markers

Pens

Notepads

Timer

Step 1

Set the stage (5 min)

Introduce this exercise as a way to improve overall team health so the team feels comfortable honestly reporting their weekly hours and availability. Share how the output of this exercise will be used – for example, many teams at Atlassian review and update their individual capacities in their bi-weekly sprint planning. Poll the room (if you're doing this with your team) and ask them what problem you're here to analyse. Write all responses down on a whiteboard.

Be ready for intentional and unintentional bias in the answers you discuss here. Make sure the room doesn't try to steer away from an uncomfortable truth, or try to reach an easy consensus.

If there isn't one clear problem, you'll need to agree on which problem to work on – which on it's own should be pretty revealing! Once you're agreed, write the succinct problem statement on the board.

Step 2

Build out a typical week's work for each individual (5 min)

Ask everyone to independently write down all the things they do in a typical week, along with an estimate of how much time you spend on it, expressed as hours per week. Look at your calendar, email inbox, Jira tickets, and chat channels to ensure you're painting the full picture.

Then, calculate the percentage of time they are spending on this project by dividing the weekly on hours spent on this project by the total weekly hours.

Pro Tip

Make sure to include time spent on bug fixing, incident response, administrative tasks, recurring meetings, coffee runs, unplanned hallway chats, 1:1s, etc. and make sure to separate out the hours you spend on different projects.

Step 3

Summarize how much time is being spent on this project (15 min)

Summarize the team's capacity in a table. First group all people in the same role. For each role, record each individual in a row and include their total weekly hours spent on this project. After you've recorded every individual in the same role, add up the total hours available for that role.

Repeat until you've recorded all roles and team members in your table.

Magnifying glass
For example...

Your capacity plan table should look something like this. (But if it doesn't, y'know... we won't judge.)

Step 4

Agree on next steps (5 min)

Now that you have a capacity baseline, how often will you review your team allocation? Are there responsibilities with no owners? We'd recommend using the output of this session to guide your estimation and prioritization exercises for your team's upcoming projects.

Nailed it?

Be sure to run a full Health Monitor session or checkpoint with your team to see if you're improving.

Variations

An express 10-minute version of this exercise can be done as part of a IT Project Kick-Off. For the express version, ask team members to come prepped with a list of activities and give five minutes for individual calculation and five minutes to summarize the team's capacity. 

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