A lack of time is the bugbear of the 21st-century business world. A thousand things to do, employees to manage and a never-ending list of urgent tasks are all now part of every manager’s daily routine. Everything needs to be delivered immediately, and things can easily spiral out of control. But, time is not always our enemy – we have to keep in mind that it is finite, and we need to organise ourselves accordingly. Several quite productive ways of putting life in order exist, and one of them is stack methodology, which we’ll discuss here.
Where did stack methodology originate?
First, the methodology was created by a Brazilian tech entrepreneur, and a direct translation of its name would be written as the “battery methodology.” Nevertheless, it has nothing to do with the chemical energy containers we put in clocks and remote controls. The idea, as shown in the name stack, refers to the tight grouping of tasks that we are required to perform every day, hour and minute.
The stack methodology was created by Franklin Valadares, co-founder and CTO of Runrun.it, to solve a problem that bedevils every corporate manager: they spend too much time reporting on and managing what their subordinates are doing instead of devoting their time to developing strategies for the organization’s future. There is an extensive group of different types of managers who suffer from these problems: section managers, supervisors and even some directors.
In an article for the Harvard Business Review, Professor Gary Hamel said: “We will fire every manager.” But what’s the reason for that? For the professor it comes down to a simple calculation: he says that the amount of hours spent supervising the work of others is a waste, consuming an untenable one-third of company payrolls.
Franklin gave himself the challenge of finding a solution to automating these burdensome tasks. He tested every tool that was available on the market at the time, ranging from traditional methods like PMI to a large number of other forms of project management. Either they were too complex or too simple to address the problem successfully. That’s when he came up with the theory behind what came to be known as stack methodology.
The main goal of stack methodology is to find a way to arrange the various activities and projects that need to be a part of the company’s and the team’s daily routine. Its goal is to facilitate work management in an organized and structured manner. This is because lots of people believe that they are good at doing several things at the same time; but it has been definitively proven that our brains can only really do one thing, efficiently, at a time.
With all of this in mind, Franklin created Runrun.it – work management software that, in addition to organizing the flow of demands, documents (or formalizes) everything that happens with that flow.
You mean we’re not all multitaskers?
We may be able to do many things, but nothing comes out properly if we try to do them all at the same time. If we were to step back and analyze, our lives are an endless line, or stack, of tasks. We should spend our precious time (remember what I said before about time being finite?) prioritizing those tasks that will bring the most benefits or results.
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What is stack methodology in practice?
To illustrate all this, let’s take a look at the following example:
Imagine Claudia is the director of a design office. Suppose she manages a small team of two designers – and that she and her team have a series of tasks to do every day. Now imagine that Claudia and her team have just received a briefing for the creation of new visual identity for a client and that the campaign should consist of the following tasks:
1) conceive of the creative concept behind the campaign;
2) conceive of the attendant visual design;
3) diagram the campaign;
4) think about actions with brand ambassadors;
5) contact suppliers requesting estimates, and
6) assemble layouts for presentation.
Let’s assume that Claudia also knows more or less how long it will take the team to deliver each one. In other words, she can accurately estimate how much time she and her team will spend and each step. Therefore, she would be able to estimate the effort required in each of the phases of the project – around a total of 120 working hours.
So, let’s assume that if Claudia’s team started doing all the tasks early on Monday, they would be busy until Friday. That is, they would finalize the campaign in five days if they all work eight hours a day.
3 people x 8h daily x 5 days of the week = 120h. Correct?
Another project appears midway through
However, Claudia’s team is also in charge of another ongoing campaign (Project 2). And, that project has turned out to be pretty complicated. The customer in question, calls Cláudia once in a while asking for changes and asking when deliveries will be finalized, while also changing the briefing frequently and taking more time than usual to approve some points.
Therefore, to optimize her team’s time, Claudia merges the activities included in projects 1 and 2. By combining the two projects’ tasks, Project 1 will now be expected to take 170 business hours, not 120 working hours – since some of Project 2’s tasks will be sandwiched into stack 1.
It’s starting to get a little complicated at this point, right? Now we’re even going to make it a bit worse: let’s imagine that Claudia’s and her team’s schedules are not just limited to these two projects. Other tasks also require the attention of Claudia and her two designers. They still have to orient their design assistants who are working for other clients, as well as attending briefings and presentations. Everyone also has to read e-mails, research references and occasionally perform tasks that are passed down by the board. In this case, Claudia and her team would be faced by an even more complex stack of tasks.
The possibility of having an accurate vision of her employees’ required tasks would bring Claudia a much more realistic perspective of her time management needs. This would protect her employees, safeguard the company, and keep customer expectations in line with realistic time- and dead-lines.
>> Recommended reading: How to deal with clients who continually ask for revisions to projects
Summarizing stack methodology
If each of the people in a given team has several projects and day-to-day tasks in their stack of required tasks, and their manager can prioritize each of them in practice, they will be able to play a part in multiple projects at the same time, with a realistic understanding of possible deliveries, revisions, and, most importantly, their costs.
The hypothetical example above is the reality for most teams in companies around the world. It is not often that Claudia – or you, as manager – will have teams which are fully dedicated to a single project. There will always be a range of projects and last-minute tasks – and a constant need to put out fires is not the best way to manage a company or even a team. The ability to avoid that situation is the mark of a highly efficient company.
>> Recommended reading: Visual management as a means to increase productivity
A tool for stacking your methodology
As we said, the stack methodology was conceptualized and developed here, at Runrun.it. Designed to make managers’ jobs much easier, Runrun.it provides performance indicators, sophisticated management reports such as Gantt, in addition to project delivery forecasting charts and automated cost reporting. You’ll see how simple and easy the tool will make it for you to take advantage of our stack methodology. Sign up now for a free trial: http://runrun.it