Multitasking causes further delays in projects ( a logical deduction?)

Multitasking, which is defined as simultaneously working on multiple tasks, exacts a horrible toll on productivity!


Clark and Wheelwright (1993) studied the effects of multitasking and found that the time an individual spends on value-adding work drops rapidly when the individual is working on more than two tasks. (some people are immune to this like Spock (then again the vulcans will argue that this is illogical), Robocop, Data, Jamie Madrox (well he can duplicate himself so its not exactly multitasking :P) etc...)


Logically, it makes sense that multitasking helps when you have two things to work on. With two value-adding tasks, if you become blocked on one you can switch to the other. It is also logical that the above figure shows a rapid decline in time spent on value-adding tasks after a second task. We’re rarely blocked on more than one task at a time; and, if working on three or more concurrent tasks, the time spent switching among them becomes a much more tangible cost and burden.


Multitasking often becomes an issue once a project starts to have some activities finish late. At that point dependencies between activities become critical. A developer waiting on the work of another developer will ask that developer to deliver just a subset of work so that he may continue. 

For example, suppose a developer is to spend ten days working on some database changes, then ten days implementing an application programming interface (API) for accessing the database, and then ten days developing a user interface. This can be seen in the above figure. Dev 2's work is held up until dev 2 gets the API from dev 1. Dev 2 asks dev 1 to do just enough of the API work so that they can get started. Similarly, the tester asks dev 1 to do just enough of the user interface so that they can begin automating tests. Dev 1 agrees and the schedule becomes as shown below;


This often gives the illusion of speed, but as shown above, the work takes longer to complete :)

 

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