A very simple risk-mitigation approach to tackle the truck-factor

originally by Michael Mahlberg on agile-aspects
A very simple risk-mitigation approach to tackle the truck-factor

If you have heard of the Truck-Factor you might assume that it is a good idea to have everyone on the team capable to do everything equally well. There are just a couple of issues with this idea. For one thing, you can’t have the world’s best goal keeper in such a team. And –especially when the goal is to build something that hasn’t been built before– training and educating all people in all areas of expertise equally well takes a lot of time.
Furthermore, since it’s desirable to run a lot of safe to fail experiments some of the options we explore will be discarded and thus spreading the (in depth) knowledge about them through the whole team could be considered waste.

I personally like the approach of the three ”bricks” as a rule of thumb for the distribution of knowledge about “special” areas of expertise:

    /------\          \
| | |
| 1 | |
| | |
\______/ \ Capacity between
/------\/------\ / 0,5 and 2 "expert equivalents"
| || | |
| 0,5 || 0,5 | |
| || | |
\------/\------/ /

\______ ______/
\/
Risk-mitigation
3 people

Where the numbers in the ‘bricks’ indicate a subjective competence that has to be negotiated on a per case basis.

This is by no means all you need to do a full capacity planning or full fledged risk management, but the “three bricks approach” is a very handy way think about managing expertise on new technologies, tools or techniques.

till next time
  Michael Mahlberg

P.S.: If you want to do in depth capacity planning you might want to look at Troy Magennis’ Excel sheet for portfolio planning for that and when it comes to risk management the classic Waltzing With Bears provides a great introduction.

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