Friday, May 14, 2010

Rough week

Ladies and gentleman. I present to you The Wall of Assignments!

This week has probably been one of the most stressful for me so far in school thanks to a workload "perfect storm" that I anticipated a while back.  Earlier this quarter, I realized that the workload was going to be pretty rough after completely overlooking an assignment, which my team was able to cover.  I knew that I would need to do a better job of staying on top of everything to avoid getting caught off guard again, so I drew up my "Wall of Assignments" (pictured above) for this quarter.   This gave me a quick way to keep track of the assignments that were due each week (just have to bend my neck a bit to look up).

When I was surveying the quarter's workload, I realized that the 3 group projects and my personal assessment for Power In Orgs could pose a problem, particularly if all of the work ramped up at the same time,  which would probably be close to when the assignments were due.  Unfortunately, that is pretty much how things have played out, and that workload coupled with all of the one-off HW assignments has made it increasingly difficult to keep up.  In response, I've pretty much had to stop doing any preparation for my classes (reading, looking over notes, etc) to focus solely on assignments that are due.

Fortunately, since I anticipated the flood, I was able to prepare for it somewhat.  I've been working on my Advanced Biz Strat project regularly throughout the quarter, and I am pretty much done with all of the back-end work, so now I can focus on writing my component.  I freaked out earlier this week because I thought that my work was going to be invalidated by my teammates, who are not quite as far along on their respective workstreams.  That would have been absolutely disastrous, but I think we got it all under control.  My other step for mitigating the problem was to start working on my personal assessment early and try to add to it every week.  I'm about 60% done with it, and it is due in 3 weeks, so I think I'll be OK on it.

My goal for this weekend is to spend all day on Saturday and Sunday writing for my Power in Org project, Power in Org personal assessment, and Advanced Biz strat project.  I'm pretty slow at writing because I tend to labor over every word and every sentence, so I don't expect it to be a pleasant experience.

I was in my Operations class this morning, when I figured out a few reasons that group projects can be more difficult to manage.
  • Dependencies and Statistical Fluctuations - These two items when taken together can reduce the  throughput (amount of work that gets done) of a process or system (your team).  For example, when you are working with a team, you have to plan the work around multiple, conflicting calendars (dependencies!).  So, you might want to use a light weekend to get a head start on a project or assignment, but if your team has conflicts that weekend, then forget about it (statistical fluctuations!).  This works both ways, since sometimes your team will want to work on something when you aren't available.
  • Classic Hold-up Scenario -  Until your team has fleshed out the project, agreed on the final deliverable, and assigned tasks, any time that you spend on the project may be wasted.  This reduces your incentive to try and work on it independently (to avoid a commitment that puts you in a disadvantageous situation - sleepy!) and makes it harder to smooth out the workload required for an assignment or project.  For example, you might spend a few hours researching a particular scenario, which ends up being passed over for a different scenario when your group meets.

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