Financial investing provides an analogy to avoid excessive multitasking

Readers may be familiar with my distaste of excessive multitasking given the two previous articles (in October and November 2009) I had written about this common practice.   Most PM practitioners share these concerns but we struggle with the challenge of convincing our senior management to really understand the impacts of this behavior so that positive change will occur.

It can be enlightening to have your leadership team participate in the simple simulation exercise (perhaps more than once, to help reinforce the message!) of constructing three of four different types of small LEGO widgets to see how throughput and quality suffer when they attempt to multitask the production of these simple models.

However, few of us have the luxury of being able to get our executive teams to commit their time to such an exercise so as most executives are likely to have done some personal financial investing, drawing an analogy to that familiar domain might resonate with them.

The costs of context switching are very similar to the costs of the excessive transaction commissions incurred if one were to frequently switch their investments between securities.  Gone might be the days of “buy and forget”, but excessive buying and selling is not a path to financial freedom either – over time, the transaction commission costs might eliminate most of your positive returns.

Another challenge with context switching has to do with the knowledge needed to effectively multitask.  If you engage in frequent security buys and sells, you must spend a significant amount of your time learning about each of the securities to increase your odds of making a good decision (otherwise, you are just gambling) – this effort spent in learning about and analyzing each potential investment is an opportunity cost to other productive endeavors, and coupled with the actual costs of seminars, books, magazines or other avenues of gaining this knowledge would reduce your aggregate ability to invest.

Excessive multitasking is a primary PM super villain and defeating it won’t be easy, but maybe the power of analogy might give you the silver bullet you need.


Categories: Facilitating Organization Change, Project Management | Tags: , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Financial investing provides an analogy to avoid excessive multitasking

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Financial investing provides an analogy to avoid excessive multitasking « Easy in theory, difficult in practice --

  2. itorganization2017

    Great post, Kiron – and an apt analogy! Multitasking is, I believe, a huge problem in the IT project management world. I see many organizations where people carry the number of projects they are on as a badge of courage – and that number is often ridiculous – like 8-12 projects or more!

    Part of defeating this scourge is to shift the cultural value that causes people to think of a large number of concurrent projects as a sign of “potency” or skill.

    Next time someone boasts about the large number of projects they are involved in, ask them, “Oh – don’t people want you to really dig in to any projects? Is that an expertise issue, or perhaps you just don’t have staying power? Or perhaps it’s a lack of attention span? Have you considered Ritalin?”


    • kbondale

      Spot on, Vaughan! I’ve generally found that multitasking tends to thrive in those organizations that pride raw effort over results.


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