Inside Job: Breaking the Pain Cycle
Game production lets flow run wild for a series of reasons. The first and most common excuse is "if people want to work late voluntarily, I'm not going to stop them." It's voluntary, right? Who am I to intercede? The problem is telling someone to go home can actually quantifiably increase the quality of his output and is therefore more efficient than allowing him to run himself ragged.
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Evan Robinson, veteran game producer and now a graduate student and instructor in Vancouver, was originally going to give me a quote for this column, but was just a bit too slammed with work and family stuff to get it in before the deadline. He asked that I post it here for him:
Good planning and/or time-boxing are the best known techniques for avoiding crunch, and are well covered in the literature. The unpleasant effects of too many working hours are less well known but can be found -- the Revay Report (http://tinyurl.com/69cg8) PDF provides an excellent summary.
Once you have the data, the missing two elements for avoiding crunch are two: focus and courage. Focus allows your team to achieve high levels of productivity when not in crunch mode. The high productivity exhibited during the push toward milestones is almost always focus related, not crunch related. Courage is an underrated source of crunch avoidance. Once you know that crunch doesn't get more work done, it takes a lot of courage to refuse an order to crunch. Having the courage to avoid the appearance of working hard in favor of actually working hard is rare and difficult.
My favorite project management book is probably still Rapid Development by Steve McConnell.
Made that tiny for you, Erin.