In previous articles I had covered some of the well known dangers of excessive resource multitasking, but here’s one you might not have considered – impacts to knowledge transfer and a long term increase in the risk profile for an organization’s skills supply.
The economic downturn has reduced the breadth of skills available in most organizations and we find that the once limited “single point of failure” skill set is now the rule as opposed to the exception.
There are many ways to avoid creating such single points of failure including regular job rotation, knowledge transfer at regular points in a project’s lifetime, job shadowing and even pairs programming.
However, a basic requirement for all of these practices is the recognition that growing an organization’s skill sets requires investment of resources and the need to let the ground lie fallow (or to at least to perform crop rotation if I may be permitted to stretch my analogy to the breaking point).
With excessive multitasking, any available bandwidth that a skilled SME might have to harvest or transfer knowledge to others is consumed by wasteful context switching. On top of that, management immaturity ensures that the SME is over-committed to project work such that they have no ability to share their knowledge at the end of a project.
The most common symptom of this disease is that your skilled SMEs will be running at 110% while junior resources are underutilized. This symptom can cause burnout, quality issues, job dissatisfaction or attrition. Hence, the very skills that are core to the successful running of your business are at the greatest risk – illogical, but unfortunately the reality at many companies!