Capacity planning tips for team leader

Capacity planning in this context means understanding the maximum amount of work your team can handle within a given period and proposing an adjustment to headcounts accordingly. The basics sound simple:

  • Understand how much work your team will have in the coming weeks and months
  • How many team members (at different levels of seniority) does it take to complete the projects on schedule
  • What your current team members are capable of achieving? It would help if you planned in a way that allows your team members and yourselves to have regular working hours.
  • Identify if there are discrepancies between the two estimations. 

In practice, it can be a lot more complicated, especially for new managers. Common mistakes are:

  • Underestimate how long each subproject/task may take 
  • Overestimate/Underestimate how capable your team members are
  • Don’t take into consideration the effort/time taken by coordinating with other teams, and departments on the same projects
  • Misunderstand the project requirements or what great looks like
  • Requests for additional headcounts are not approved or approved late. It leads to overwork by current team members. 
  • Underestimate how long it takes to recruit new team members or to onboard them (even transition members from another team).

As a result, for new managers, it happens very often that they end up owning a lot of the project themselves and working long hours. They may even get frustrated and question the commitment or support from their subordinates or senior management. 

So what can you (the new manager) do?

  • With a complex project, ask for guidance and feedback from your manager regarding your resourcing plan.
  • Check with other departments that you need to coordinate with to understand their schedules and resources. Align the overall program and critical milestones between departments
  • Involve your team members from the start so that you all share the same status, target, and approach and decide on tradeoffs together. Your team members will feel more committed to the plan as they play a part in shaping the project. 
  • If you need to raise a request for additional headcount, it is advisable to understand how your company is doing financially during that quarter/year and how a decision is often made. Who are the key decision-makers? What information do they need to make the decision?
  • Always remember that things will take longer (even twice longer) than anticipated, so build in buffer time. 
  • Practice, practice, and practice.

That’s all from me. Let me know what you think via the comments below.


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