The Setup Solution Part 1: Setting The Stage

Last week I posted a warning about a common trap in-house designers can fall into that I called “The Setup” (as in being set up to fail). Below is a reply from a reader that I feel compelled to address because of its importance to any in-house team’s success. This is the first in a 3 part series on the topic.

While I don’t disagree with this in theory, you aren’t offering any real, tangible solutions to the problem. How do you constructively approach management and make a case for your situation? Those would be useful tips.

There are 3 ways to deal with “The Setup”. One is to accept it and fail. The second is to prioritize projects to accomplish the work with existing resources. The third is to acquire more resources (this is usually staff).

Before we discuss options 2 and 3 (1 is off the table), it’s critical that you crunch some numbers to accurately assess your situation. To do this you’re going to have to take a snapshot of where you are with your current workload.

Estimate the hours needed to complete all the projects currently assigned to your group. Take into account the deadlines and establish a fixed timeframe. Calculate the hours your team has available to devote to those projects within the due dates – 75% x 8hrs/day per appropriate staff person (the 75% figure is the time a designer can actually work on the project after subtracting bathroom breaks, administrative tasks, meetings etc.).

If your hours to complete all your projects by their assigned deadlines exceeds the amount of hours your team has available without resorting to OT, then you have the information you need to make a case for prioritizing projects or adding staff.

2 important notes – First, your workload is most likely a moving target that shifts hour by hour. If there are numerous small fires that break out and take up staff time, add them into the equation as a group with an educated guess on hours.

Second, OT may be just the solution your management is looking for to continue to increase your workload without adding resources. There’s nothing wrong with OT when used sparingly. If your team is consistently resorting to this solution, though, then you risk burnout resulting in drastically reduced efficiencies – slower execution of tasks, more mistakes, more time to correct the mistakes etc.

Here are links to documents and sites that discuss the negative impact of excessive overtime:







Part 2 of The Setup Solution will post next week. The focus will be on making the case for prioritization.