An Oracle blog about Unified Method

Guard Against the Multitasking Brain Drain with OUM

Most people are aware of the perils of multitasking – it is bad for productivity, increases the possibility of distractions, and basically creates a mental traffic jam. It not only wreaks havoc in everyday life but also causes major problems on projects. If you look at OUM you might be thinking, “Hey wait! Isn’t the fact that OUM’s processes run in parallel and that it takes a cross-functional approach really multitasking?” My
response to you (to borrow from Lee Corso) is, “Not So Fast, My Friend!”

The answer is directly related to magnitude of the shifts in focus. We know that those broad deviations in requirements and technology require more adjustment and time to switch gears. Human brains are
okay with shifting tasks within reasonable limits. On a well managed OUM project, the team is focused on a discrete, prioritized list of functionality and
technology. Only a limited number of logically grouped requirements are being worked at a time in order to achieve specific milestones. This means there is a narrow span of scope being addressed at any point in the project, even there may be a wide range of tasks and processes in play.

Extensive detours such as new requirements and major shifts in priorities are the catalysts that can lose the project to the nemesis known as multitasking. Fortunately, OUM has a number of tools to keep the focus and guard against the multitasking brain drain – timeboxes, MoSCoW lists, use cases, and system context diagrams...just to name a few.

What are some tools you use to keep your projects focused? Please share with us in the comments section below!

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Comments ( 3 )
  • Tom Spitz Wednesday, August 6, 2014

    Well said and timely. This is a subject I've been thinking about a lot lately, both for my own work and for enabling the PMO team that I'm working with.

    In our daily scrum, I've found that when I keep my "What am I going to do today?" list short and focused, I can typically report much better results the next day on my "What did I do yesterday?" list.

    Your point about using the techniques that OUM reveals is absolutely correct. As a project manager, project team member, scrum master, etc. you need to do everything you can to stay focused on one item at a time, getting that item done, and moving on to the next item. Your job will naturally provide many interrupts that will cause you to have to switch contexts, with that resulting overhead. You might as well plan your own work and the project's work to minimize that multitasking.

    Thanks for the blog.


  • Gary A Johnson PMP Wednesday, August 6, 2014

    One of the best features of OUM is its robust, existing set of tools and artifacts, tailorable for each project. To paraphrase Lauren, this enhances the PM’s ability to focus his/her more important energies on business requirements than on underlying technologies. The PM doesn’t have to multitask between preparing for the next daily Scrum and developing an earned value management (EVM) tool.

    The benefit of using OUM applies across new projects and environments as well… thereby minimizing the natural inherent startup costs associated with new projects and players.

    If you are an Oracle shop, and not using OUM, it is well worth your effort to take a serious look at its built-in body of knowledge, gleaned from the experience of 1000s of projects, across different technologies and from industry standards. Just the fact that your team and stakeholders will learn to speak the same lexicon will bring cost-effective benefits to your organization.

  • guest Wednesday, August 20, 2014


    Very nice blog entry and "spot on" based on current thinking about multi-tasking. I recently had the good fortune to attend a course on brain training. All the things you can expect were there, of course, but the focus on trying to stop the misconception of Multi-tasking as a means of increasing productivity was the most compelling.

    We were asked to do an exercise which really hit home for me. It illustrated easily how multi-tasking actually takes longer and can cause errors that wouldn't normally happen.

    On a decent size project there are lots of things going on concurrently worked on by individuals. But the individual should be working one item at a time, as you and others have said.

    In general following a method, and having a plan with a list of tasks can actually help individuals become better able to focus. Then they can work the items they are assigned to on the project workplan. Plan the work, work the plan, makes for a better chance of project success.

    Thanks for your blog entry, well said!

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