Anti-Pattern: Linear Perception of Capacity

Linear Perception of Capacity is the conviction that the capacity at a certain organizational level is the sum of the capacities at the level underneath. So for example, a capacity of a team is the sum of the capacities of its members. Similarly the capacity of a program is the sum of the capacities of its teams and so forth. This logic would be true if engineers and other enterprise roles were 100% interchangeable, which is dramatically far from the actual state of affairs in most organizations. The net result of such thinking is typically too much Work-In-Process (WIP), overload of knowledge workers and poor economic decision-making.

It is critical to understand that every team, program and organization has their bottlenecks and throughput is always constrained much more compared to the linear view of capacity.

Example: three teams (A, B and C) are working on a features set. For every feature, teams A and B have dependency on team C to deliver data access functionality. Most likely in such a scenario, team C will be a bottleneck that constraints the system. Teams A and B will likely have excess capacity, but that won’t matter because the whole system operates at the rate team C operates. Identifying throughput bottlenecks and educating the management in this different kind of thinking is key to successful operations of the teams.

Linear Perception of Capacity is a direct symptom of Reductionist Mindset.