What Is Your Organization’s Productivity Factor (how many man-days per month do you work, really)?

In Project Management on 07/02/2011 by Michael Fong Tagged: , , ,

In project management workshops that I conduct, when I enquire, “How many man-days per month does your organisation use to schedule and assign work?” I usually receive 20 or 21 in response.  In other words, to these organisations, people work 20 or 21 man-days a month and they (the organisations) use these figures when assigning work to resources (staff).

In doing so, projects are immediately 25% behind schedule when they start.  As a result, project teams need to work 25% over time every day in order to catch up.  Which means, instead of leaving the office at 5:30pm, they need to leave at 7:30pm at the earliest.  OT should only be used to handle unexpected problems and unforeseen work that lands on one’s lap, and to handle these promptly, project staff end up leaving for home at 8:30 or 9pm.  If they were to take a quick rest or meal break in the evening, their knock-off time would be pushed back to 9 or 9:30pm.

When this work late culture is perpetuated, employees get burnt out and turned off.  When they can, they will seek employment in organisations that have humane work hours.  I worked in a department where its head expected everyone to put in 14- to 15-hour days.  Such long hours do not raise productivity and has the contrary effect.  This department head knew little about productivity tools and methods, and thus demanded long work hours as his means of shoring up productivity.

To illustrate why it is invalid to use 20 or 21 man-days per month to assign or schedule work, refer to the calculations below (actual figures will vary depending on organisations).

No. of work days in a year: 260 (5 x 52)

Public holidays: 11 (there are 11 gazetted public holidays in Singapore)
Annual leave:     14 (my participants are comfortable with this number)
Sick leave:             5 (ditto)
Special leave:       3 (ditto; includes compassionate leave, child leave)
Maternity leave:  3 (this is not entitlement, but what, on average, is taken in a year per capita so to speak)
Training:                5
Off days:                2 (covers company non-work days such as open house, family day, innovation day, etc.)
Total:                    43

Therefore, no. of available work days in a year: 217

People are not robots, hence we do not work tirelessly from eight in the morning till lunch time, take exactly one hour for lunch, and then resume tireless work till five, without any bio breaks, chats, indulgence in goofing off or attending to personal matters.  We do have to read and clear spam and company/department emails that are FYI, or get involved in non-project activities such as helping organise D&D (dinner & dance) nite, attend departmental birthday celebrations, and so on.  At least 10%, if not 20%, of our daily work time is taken up by these non-productive activities.  In a year, this amounts to 32.5 days (217 x 15%), thus leaving 184.5 days of work.

There are 12 months in a year, hence each month, we work 15.4 days (185.5/12).  (Isn’t that nice: each month, we work a little over three weeks, but we are paid for a full month!)

If you had a piece of work requiring 21 man-days of effort and you assigned it to, say Ah Kow, on the 1st of the month and expected him to finish it at the end of it, there can be two outcomes on the 30th:

A)  If Ah Kow worked a normal day for each day in the month, he would have accomplished 15.4 man-days of work, leaving about 5.6 man-days of work to be done.  IOW, 26.7% of the work would be incomplete at month-end.  Maintaining his rate of progress, Ah Kow would finish early in the second week of the following month.

B)  The work is completed, but Ah Kow would have had to put in 26.7% over-time work every weekday of the month.  Instead of eight-hour days (excluding lunch), he would have worked over ten hours daily.  This means, he would work 8:30am-7:30pm without a brief evening break, or to 8:00pm with one.

As discussed earlier, if Ah Kow is conscientious and attends promptly to non-scheduled work (i.e. impromptu work that dropped on his lap) and to hiccups that arose from his scheduled work (the 21 man-day work you assigned), he would likely be still in the office at 9 or 9:30pm.

In summary, as a rough measure, an organisation’s productive man-days is about 15.4 a month, equivalent to 73% productivity factor.  If you were to stick with using 20 or 21 man-days per month for assigning and scheduling work to your staff, immediately your assignment or project would be around 25% behind schedule.  Team members would continually and eternally be in catch up mode.

Using 6 man-hours per day or 15.4 man-days per month would be fair.

What is your organisation’s productivity factor (man-days per month) for project scheduling?

— Michael, Principal Actuator, Actuated Associates PL


7 Responses to “What Is Your Organization’s Productivity Factor (how many man-days per month do you work, really)?”

  1. Is there any benefit to switching to a 4 day work week vs a 5 day work week? We are a service based organization- different than an office setting, but your formula makes sense and can easily be transferred to our type of business. For us to be profitable we need to be at 80 percent efficiency.

  2. 🙂

  3. Hi Rick

    In switching to a 4-day week, staff would still be working productively about 6 hours a day. You can’t remove all the inherent “noise” that makes people unproductive.

    There would also be the negative consequence of reduced availability of service to your customers. You would be open for business only 4 days a week instead of 5.

    Your comment gave me an idea to publish another post. I hope it will be useful to you.

    Many thanks for your comment, Rick.

    Best regards — michael.

  4. I am extremely impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your weblog.
    Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Anyway keep up the nice quality
    writing, it’s rare to see a great blog like this one today.

    • Thank you very much for expressing your enjoyment of reading my blog. I appreciate your pat on the back.


      Best regards — michael

  5. Great article. Thanks for sharing.

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