You've probably used a rota to manage responsibilities at some point in the past. I'd like to convince you that rotas are lies, that they suck valuable energy, and that there is a clearly better alternative.

But first…

In case you haven't used a rota before…

The concept of a rota is quite simple: a chart with tasks along one axis, and time along another, and at each intersection, a person who is assigned.

Here's an example, created by the hardworking team leader for Project Team Alpha:

Task ATask BTask C
Week 1AliceBobClaire
Week 2 (now)BobAliceClaire
Week 3ClaireBobAlice
Week 4AliceClaireBob
Week 5… and so on

On the surface, it all seems innocent enough, and it looks like the tasks are spread pretty fairly around everyone in the team. Seems like we're ready to print it out and pin it to the kitchen noticeboard!

Here are some facts that our team can see by looking at their rota:

  1. this week (Week 2), Alice is responsible for Task B;
  2. last week, Claire handled Task C;
  3. next week, Bob will be working on Task B;
  4. Bob knows that after this week, he won't be assigned to Task A for a while.

These are all things the team can tell with confidence, after they refer to the rota. But are they really true?

The rota is a lie

  1. The rota may say that Alice is responsible for Task B, but unfortunately she came down with a nasty cold this week, and she's not in the office. Who's going to handle it instead? I don't know, but hopefully someone will notice and handle it! Hopefully.

  2. Claire had that same cold last week, so Bob actually did Task C during Week 1. When Alice feels better and returns to the office, she has some questions about the outcomes of Task C that week, but how does he know who to ask? If we're lucky, Bob or Claire scribbled something about the switch on the rota! But both of them have been pretty busy, so…

  3. Bob thinks that next week he'll be working on Task B, but "Dave" joins the team at the end of Week 2, and their addition to the rota changes all the assignments for that week! (…and probably every week onwards!)

  4. Bob thinks that after this week, he can forget about Task A for a while, so he doesn't need to worry about doing it particularly well or making it easy to repeat. But, using our crystal ball, what we can see that which he cannot: a new task - Task D - is going to appear next week, Claire's going to fall sick again, and "Dave" quits after only seven days (not such a good hire, in the end)! So it seems there's a good chance he's going to end up working on Task A again pretty soon after all.

It looks like almost all the facts we assumed by referring to the rota are not really facts at all. The rota was drawn up without factoring in illness, or new tasks appearing, or new people joining the team, or even people unexpectedly leaving the team, because none of those events were knowable when the rota was created.

And so we come to the fundamental problem with using rotas for tasks and chores:

Rotas give the illusion that we can predict the future

… but the truth, as seen above, is that we never can. And that illusion comes at a price.

Rota maintenance is expensive

The price we pay for the inaccuracy of those predictions is the effort required to keep the rota accurate over time:

  • Rotas require effort to create —work that typically falls to one person
  • Rotas require more effort to adjust as the team and tasks change — as people become sick, join, or even leave a team, the rota must be recreated and re-balanced again, and again, and again. Ditto for the tasks, as old ones become obsolete, and new ones appear.
  • Rotas require even more effort to balance fairly — throughout all those changes, we don't want any one person to end up with an unfair burden of tasks or chores, but keeping track of what was done when, by who, throughout all of the other rota adjustments… well, managing this rota is starting to become a full-time job!

Everyone — even team leaders and office managers — has more productive things they could be using their time and energy for.

So why throw it away creating, tweaking, adjusting and re-creating rotas?

Don't try to predict the future

When your team uses Harmonia, you avoid these problems by never even trying to predict far into the future who will be assigned to any particular task.

Instead, Harmonia captures the only important details about a task — how often it needs to happen, and how to complete it — and then everything else is handled automatically.

Harmonia itself ensures that responsibility for each instance is assigned fairly, based on the other tasks each person has been assigned in the past. Harmonia also communicates assignments to the whole team, so everyone knows who needs to work on what.

Arriving and departing team members are handled automatically, without needing to recalculate any future assignments.

Temporary absences can be managed by making people temporarily un-assignable, and if anyone who has been assigned a task is unexpectedly unable to complete it, Harmonia can re-assign the task fairly to someone else in the team with a single click!

All of this means you can spend less time managing rotas, and more time doing interesting and productive work in your team.

Hopefully I've convinced you that Harmonia is better than a rota. It's free to get started, so why not sign up now?