Factoring Productivity, Efficiency, and Availability into Your Project’s Work-Effort Estimates

By Stanley E. Portny

Being assigned to a project full time doesn’t mean a person can perform project work at peak productivity 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year. Additional personal and organizational activities reduce the amount of work people produce. Therefore, consider each of the following factors when you estimate the number of hours that people need to complete their project assignments:

  • Productivity: The results a person produces per unit of time that he spends on an activity. The following factors affect a person’s productivity:
    • Knowledge and skills: The raw talent and capability a person has to perform a particular task
    • Prior experience: A person’s familiarity with the work and the typical problems of a particular task
    • Sense of urgency: A person’s drive to generate the desired results within established time frames (urgency influences a person’s focus and concentration on an activity)
    • Ability to switch among several tasks: A person’s level of comfort moving to a second task when he hits a roadblock in his first one so that he doesn’t sit around stewing about his frustrations and wasting time
    • The quality and setup of the physical environment: Proximity and arrangement of a person’s furniture and the support equipment he uses; also the availability and condition of the equipment and resources
  • Efficiency: The proportion of time a person spends on project work as opposed to organizational tasks that aren’t related to specific projects. The following factors affect a person’s efficiency:
    • Non-project-specific professional activities: The time a person spends attending general organization meetings, handling incidental requests, and reading technical journals and periodicals about his field of specialty
    • Personal activities: The time a person spends getting a drink of water, going to the restroom, organizing his work area, conducting personal business on the job, and talking about non-work-related topics with co-workers

The more time a person spends each day on non-project-specific and personal activities, the less time he has to work on his project assignments.

  • Availability: The portion of time a person is at the job as opposed to on leave. Organizational policy regarding employee vacation days, sick days, holidays, personal days, mental health days, administrative leave, and so on define a person’s availability.

When deciding how many work-hours to budget for a person to do a particular task, adjust the number required at peak performance to allow for actual levels of productivity, efficiency, and availability.