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How to calculate team capacity



What is your team capacity?

What is your actual capacity, as a team? And how much work can you actually take? How do you account for vacation time? What factors influence your capacity as a team?

Those are all important questions. So, let’s take a closer look into capacity.

In this video, by capacity we will understand the amount of valuable work that can be rendered by the team. Sounds simple. But it is actually a little bit more nuanced.

Ideal situation

Imagine you have a team of five people. If they are fully available during their next two-week iteration, what’s their capacity in that iteration? Well, if any person on the team can pick up any work, then the team’s capacity is clearly five (team members) multiplied by ten working days which is fifty days. And if someone on the team is going to have a two-week vacation, then the team capacity will be forty days.

The balance of effort

The problem with this example is that it’s too perfect, and reality is often quite different, and anyone cannot pick up any work from the backlog. People’s skillsets may overlap to some extent but are still different and so are strengths and weaknesses. So, we might have a situation where four team members are front-end developers and one of them, Tina, is a database developer. If in the next iteration most of the work involves database functionality, then Tina is automatically involved in all of it at least to some extent. So, if John, one of front-end guys, goes on vacation, we might agree to just decrease the team capacity by 20%. But what if Tina takes vacation? Remember, we said earlier that by capacity we understand the amount of valuable work. So, how much valuable work can the team render in the iteration without Tina? Zero!

This situation is actually quite tricky even without vacations. If Tina’s part in every feature is relatively small, everything is alright. But if the functionality involves a significant portion of database effort then Tina will never be able to produce her part for every one of the four front-end developers. In other words, Tina becomes a bottleneck and the overall team capacity is not fifty days, it’s less, even though nobody goes on vacation. What’s the way out of this situation? One possibility could be for some other team members to master some aspects of database development and so help decrease the uneven load within the team.


Extraneous factors

But even when the team is nearly perfectly balanced in terms of skillsets, there can be extraneous factors that influence their capacity. Your team may simply have a dependency on another team or an external subject matter expert, such as a cybersecurity professional who must thoroughly consult you on security aspects of the new scope of work. If that person is not available for the team during the iteration, then once again, they will not be able to render much useful effort. So, more streamlined interaction may be required.


Taking action

Alright, time for action. Consider doing two simple things. First, re-evaluate your assumptions regarding capacity of your team based on what has been discussed in this video. And second, if in doing so you identified certain issues, like uneven spread of effort on the team, possible bottlenecks, and decreased actual capacity, plan one concrete step in remediating the root cause of that specific problem.      

Alex Yakyma

Alex Yakyma is the author of “Pursuing Enterprise Outcomes” and “The Rollout”. As a consultant, Alex is helping enterprises succeed with complex challenges. Throughout his career, he operated in multi-cultural, highly distributed environments. Alex has trained a large number of change agents and leaders whose key role is to help their organizations achieve higher effectiveness at pursuing business outcomes.

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