Skip to content

Digression - the Watermodel® from Can Do

At Can Do, we cultivate the principle of hybrid project management in combination with powerful AI. Hybrid project management or hybrid planning at Can Do means: the teams work agile, the project itself is planned classically (waterfall, rolling, milestones, phases, etc.).

There is also a division of tasks in project planning, which is based on the respective advantages. Roughly, classic planning is used, while agile planning is used for the details. The combination of hybrid project management and AI comes very close to the human perspective: "The project has to be finished in winter, our kickoff is Wednesday at nine". Can Do has a specially programmed algorithm that simplifies resource management in particular (skill-based if desired). Especially in multi-project management. We show how work organisation works - and how it is significantly improved with Watermodel®.

Work organisation of individuals

People do not work like machines - and in our knowledge and service society, neither do they work on a piecework basis. Employees in companies are highly qualified and have many skills, so they can be employed in a wide range of jobs.

Project management is a working method that is primarily goal-oriented. This is expressed in terms of deadlines, even if they are imprecise, and quantities. Milestones in projects represent partial goals. Both of these conditions shape the project planning of our time, as does the use of modern planning software. Those in charge have to rethink, and the issue of micro-planning in particular has changed a lot.

The goal that the project manager sets for the entire project is broken down into sub-goals, i.e. milestones. This refinement then also takes place in the work packages of the people in a project. The work to be done has a start, an end and an assumed amount of work. And project participants have several of these works in parallel in their personal planning. This can happen in a single project, but often also across projects.

Furthermore, this person has to deal with non-project-related work - such as basic workload, meetings, etc. The detailed organisation is the responsibility of the project manager. The detailed organisation is the responsibility of the individual person. They therefore decide when which work is to be done and in what quantity. They only have to comply with the framework conditions from the planning.

These people do not prepare a detailed work plan for a week or longer. Their personal calendar does not say: write a 1.5 hour concept on Monday, then talk to colleagues (30 minutes), then work through emails (21 minutes), etc. They do not have a detailed work plan for a week or longer. Employees work day-to-day, to use an exaggeration, without ideally taking into account higher-level planning. Then they set the priorities and often also the work intensity.

The most important point for the planner, however, is that the employees must be able to do all the work, assuming good personal organisation. If the planning goals cannot be met, deviations will occur. But much worse is that if this happens more often or always, the employees no longer really believe the targets and no longer take them seriously. They run after a goal that can never be achieved and eventually ignore it.

This is then the result of a top-down disruption of the entire planning of a company. Top management releases (or orders) unrealistic projects, project management pushes these impossible projects down to the team, who then always fall behind schedule. If a project then has significant deviations or even fails, the team is blamed - after all, they did not meet the specifications. Employees may only be utilised up to the capacity limit, perhaps a little above. Otherwise the planning is pointless. Project managers needs to know in real time, at the moment of planning, whether a team member is able to complete the task. To use average values for a work package is misleading. A team member who is supposed to work on a text over a period of 5 days, but does not invest more than 20 hours in total, will not work exactly 4 hours on the text every day. If the person had a day off, he or she would be shown in the software as overworked, although he or she can easily manage the package through a little organisation of his or her own.

Some solutions help themselves by increasing the "flight level". So instead of looking at the workload for a week, they look at the month. If the team member has an availability of 160 hours per month and is scheduled with 150 hours in total, everything works. Anyone who plans like this is unfortunately stuck in the past of piecework. Project plans are not based on months or quarters, but on individual work packages or phases that are correspondingly shorter and must also be completed on time. Thus, a periodic view of staff utilisation has only limited informative value.

Another popular evasion strategy of planners is to simply plan much more roughly. In other words, many work packages are combined into one planning element and the staff is planned on that basis. The more detailed work steps are only documented and the details left to the employees. Of course, this does not change the reality at all, except that the employees are not only executing parts of the project, but also planning them.

An important insight into work organisation: the detailed organisation of how a person organises parallel tasks for him or herself is complex and dynamic. Above all, because people do not know exactly themselves.

Planning with the Watermodel®

In the Can Do planning software, there is a sophisticated algorithm that can easily handle this complexity and dynamism in work planning and organisation. The process has been named "Watermodel®" because work for people is dynamic and moving, like water in a basin.

With the Watermodel®, all conceivable arrangements of work within the limits are simulated - and really all. If the algorithm finds those variants from the thousands of combinations that work for the employees, the system remains still. A warning to the project manager is not necessary, because they can do it. However, the situation is volatile. A single time feedback on a work package by the employees changes everything, and it has to be simulated again whether the tasks can still be organised.

In larger companies, extreme quantities can arise, as several people are scheduled to work on one work package. Furthermore, there are often many packages with many resource allocations. Depending on the company and the sector, the number can run into the millions. Nevertheless, the Can Do software with the Watermodel® also manages these calculations in real time.

To further increase the enormous complexity, an additional factor must be considered: The planning objects that are used for a calculation are precisely not predictable, they can be imprecise. It is therefore not known exactly when the work package will start, how long it will take or how high the work quantity will be. Therefore, the algorithm has no choice but to combine every possibility of how a work package could run with all other variants of all other work packages. Thousands of combinations become billions. The algorithm also manages this in real time. For a human doing the project planning, that would be impossible. That is why planning people in projects is almost impossible for humans. The scenario can be taken even further if the requirement of the planners is not personal planning but generic planning. This means that the project is not assigned a single person, but a team of people. This is more common in long-term planning. Now the algorithm must also calculate every conceivable combination of people with each other and the respective possible work shares.

Since this is mathematically possible, but in the case of large portfolios it would probably take several thousand years to obtain the result, further algorithms are connected upstream. They first analyse sample situations and then control suitable dynamic algorithms that solve the problem in segments. Each of these algorithms is specialised. Through this procedure, the result can then also be determined in real time.