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You’re solving the wrong problem

When once again faced with the problem of the team being overloaded. Are you solving the right problem?

You’re in the middle of creating a game when you realize that you have way too much work to complete within the timeframe you have left. What’s the first thought that crosses your mind?

I’m going to bet that most people in that situation starts looking for more people. You need to find another level artist, scripter, programmer, lighting artist etc. Let’s assume that you’re lucky and you find skilled people with short notice that can come in and help building the game. In many cases they have to relocate to live closer to the studio and get a full-time employment.

It all makes sense, if you needed more people to complete this game. What’s not to say that you will need that when you’re making the next game? With this approach you end up in a vicious circle of continuously needing more people to complete your productions.

By solving the problem of having too few people through adding more people, you are buying yourself a totally new set of problems. They will not be apparent right away, but these are a few things you are bound to encounter:

More people, more problems

The senior people on the team will feel less and less important with the influx of new people. Each piece of the machinery becomes smaller in comparison to the whole. This can cause a lot of friction that needs constant attention and management.

Middle management

The longer you can go without middle management in the team, the better off you are. Middle management adds a communication layer that makes things more complex. Not to mention that it is very hard to find skilled leaders.

Ballooning productions

Each production needs to pay for the people on-site. So when you plan the next production you will of course try to plan the project in a way that it feeds all mouths on the team. Naturally, the bigger the production, the more difficult it will be to plan. More than likely you will find yourself needing more people halfway through the next production as well.

Solving the right problem

The question you should ask yourself when faced with the overload problem is not, “Where can I find more people?”. It should be “How can we build the same game with less people than we already are?”.

Asking yourself that question put’s your mind in the right place. What you need to look for are smart solutions to reduce the workload of your current team, try to find out if there are things you can do to keep the team size down. Supporting questions you should be asking yourself and your team are:
 

Where are we spending time today?

If you don’t know where you’re spending time today, adding more people is just making the situation worse.

Do we have any bottle necks?

Is there something in our team that keeps us from moving forward over and over again? Is it the coffee machine that always needs attention that everyone is always waiting at? Is it that poor lone concept artist that has way too much work that everyone is waiting for?

Do we have any time thieves?

Is our outsourcing process eating way too much attention from way too many people? Is the build process too slow?

Are there smarter ways we can do things?

Probably the most important question of all, and also the one that takes the longest to dig into. There are probably a lot things going on internally that can be done in a much smarter way. Doing things in a smarter way can free up lots of time.

 

Everybody is facing the problem of having too much to do compared to the available time. The smart ones think of the problem the right way, they don’t take the easy way out by adding more people.

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