Strategic Reserve Time, What’s That?

Filed under Best Practices | Posted by MMeloni

Strategic reserve time? That sounds like some kind of secret code. What could it possibly be? And why should you bother to learn some fancy new term?

Consider this scenario. You worked very hard to find out which resources were assigned to work on your project.You went to each functional or resource manager and asked them for resources and also the appropriate resource allocations.

You dutifully took this information and along with the estimates for each task you created a beautiful shiny new schedule. Your project continues and much to your chagrin you find that you and your team are falling behind schedule.

What happened?

Of course there are many reasons why projects might fall behind schedule. One of these reasons could be faulty resource allocation. Hey now wait a minute, you did everything the right way. You didn’t just make up these resource allocations by yourself, so what’s happening? Maybe the resource allocations you were given were not correct? Perhaps you and the functional managers didn’t have clear communications?

What is in your schedule? Is it a percentage of the total time that your resources work or is it their strategic reserve time? The answer to this question could reveal why your beautiful shiny new schedule is now falling apart. Your resources have other commitments. And those commitments involve other projects but they also involve the day-to-day work each person does above and beyond project work and frequently BEFORE project work. This could be where your problem exists.

What you need to know is not how much someone is available every week in total, you need to know how much time someone is available each week for your project. There is a difference. To step back let’s pretend for a moment that your resources work a 40 hour workweek. (Don’t fall down laughing I know many of you work many more hours than that.) For our example your resources are available for a total of 40 hours. When you are told you will have a resource for 50% of her time you might think that means that she will work on your project for 20 hours each week. Guess what? That might not be true. No one is out to get you, you just need to consider her strategic reserve time. In other words the amount of time she is really available to work on your project once her other commitments have been taken care of. ,

Before she can even get to you she has about two hours a day of administrative time. This may sound high, but remember that everyone is not 100% productive. This doesn’t mean she is a slackers or a bad employee. There are other things that occur that aren’t your project but are part of her work assignment. She may have to take phone calls and answer questions about work that completed in the past. She may have to fill in for her manager at a meeting. She needs to read communications and memos and go to staff meetings. None of these items are particularly related to your project. She might have catch-up work to do and she might have special projects. By special projects I mean things that come up that aren’t part of her regular day to day but are assigned to her to take care of. It could be pulling together some data for meeting with the director, It could be giving a training presentation to a new employee. Before you get you 50% of her time, you need to net out her administrative work, her catch-up work and her special projects. You get 50% of what is left.

Like this:

Availability: 40 hours
Administrative work: 8 hours
Catch-up work: 2 hours
Special projects: 6 hours

Her strategic reserve time is the time left AFTER her other commitments. Or Strategic Reserve Time = Availability – (Administrative work + Catch-up work + Special projects). In this instance for our example her strategic reserve time is: 40 -(8+2+6) or 24.
YOU get 50% of that. Your resource will work for you for 12 hours that week. The difference between the 20 hours your first assumed and the reality of the 12 hours will make a significant difference. Especially as your project progresses.

THAT is why you care about strategic reserve time.