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Who’s On First?

Abbot and Costello’s routing is still funny. Unless it’s YOUR Project.

In traditional work management, one of the key positions is the person who provides the actual work assignments. Project Managers may use placeholders such as Business Lead 1 and Developer 4 in their preliminary plans, but eventually, someone has to pick who’s on first. Depending on the size of the project, that might be a full time job or even a team of people. I’ve been on Projects where that group ends up becoming a bottleneck, despite having really good PPM Software.

By the time I find out Who’s been picked and What’s been worked on, I Don’t Know Why and I Don’t Care!

Thank goodness we don’t staff baseball games the same way.

In baseball, everyone has the same objectives. The team’s picked. The game starts. The players know what to do, what each other is going to do, and they cover for each other. They can see the play as it develops, and move to help as best they can. It’s trust and teamwork at its finest.

Last year, one of my clients rediscovered this baseball concept and embraced it in their on-demand project management environment. In project management terms, I call it "Self Assignment".

Here’s the pitch…

Each year, my client has a series of repeatable Projects (hundreds) with the same Tasks (dozens); but depending on the geographical area and time of the year, the players change. When we set up the Projects, we carefully assigned a Role to every Task. Then, for each user, we assigned the Roles — often more than one — that they can perform.

Nothing new so far: standard Project Management stuff.

…it’s a hit…

For each team member that logs into the Project Software, we display all the Tasks that are ready to be performed, but restrict them to only the Tasks the user can perform, given their Roles. We also group it by geographical area and month, which draws their attention to what’s logically "their" Tasks, in chronological order. But since other Tasks they could perform are visually nearby, they can easily call for help, or offer to cover for each other. Everyone is encouraged and expected to work on the most important thing that they can, from what’s ready to go.

That’s Self Assignment. It encourages teamwork, but without the overhead of having to explicitly assign the Tasks.

…now here’s the catch.

Self assignment isn’t for everyone. Team size, geography, politics, and deadlines; there are lots of ways to drop the ball. But if you’re working with a team that just wants to get out of the inning regardless of who makes the play, consider Self Assignment.

I think it might catch on.