Project Resource Management
The Project Manager role is often the first exposure a person has to leading a team. For technical people, who are used to working mainly on their own, this can be a daunting development. However, building an effective team around you is a core aspect of managing any project. The Project Manager also needs to ensure the team has the tools to do the job and the materials to create the desired products and services. In other words, the project's resources need to be managed.
Just like everything else in project management, Project Resource Management begins with a plan. It is here that we identify the skill sets, the equipment and materials needed to get the work done. Interestingly, it is at this stage that the term Human Resources starts to make sense, because, at this point, you think of the people you need in the same way as you quantify material resources or specify equipment.
To determine the necessary resources, we need to draw on Project Schedule Management. During the Estimate Activity Resources process, we need to identify the resources we will need to do all the activities listed in the schedule. We should also have an idea of when we will need them from the developed schedule. From this information we can create what is called a Resource Histogram, showing the utilization of people and equipment during the project. For instance, if we were building a house, we would not need plasterers until the walls are built.
While identifying our resource requirements is important, the Resource Management Plan will also detail how we are going to find them, how we will develop the people into an effective team and how we will manage them on a day-to-day basis. Much of the staff management might be covered by Standard Operating Procedures laid down across the organization, such as Health and Safety rules, break times, etc. Others may be prescribed by legislation, such as the Factories Act.
Once the plan is complete, we need to find the resources. Usually, this involves requesting internal personnel and the use of expensive equipment from functional managers. Having a clear idea of how long you need a resource will help your cause, as you are more likely to meet with success if you can show you only need the person or tool for a relatively short duration.
It is possible that the skills are not available in-house, so you might have to hire in from outside. This might involve engaging a contracting agency or hiring people on a full-time basis. If it is in the organization’s interest to acquire these particular skills and they will be of use on future projects, then hiring is a good way to go. Similarly with equipment - we need to decide whether to buy or rent. While renting makes sense on short projects, as time goes by, buying equipment outright tends to be more cost effective.
Another situation that might arise is that the team could be distributed. This could be across different divisions of a trans-national corporation or between development staff at home and installation personnel at customer sites. The use of virtual teams makes team development and management difficult. Careful division of the work across the physical boundaries is essential. The less overlap between the different sites the better. Of course, getting access to equipment in remote sites may also be more complicated.
Having acquired the team, the next step is to get them to identify themselves as a team. Physical co-location is strongly recommended – especially by agile practitioners. However, while this is not an option with virtual teams, every effort should be made for the team to meet face-to-face at least once in advance of the project. This will make future communication much easier.
Another technique to establish team identity is team-building activities. The most effective of these is to get the group involved in the planning process. This gives everyone a sense of ownership and control over the work they will do. Similarly, a training course at the start of a project can help to bond the individuals.
Once the project is up and running, the Project Manager needs to be aware of tensions between the team members and any issues they might have. The Issue Log that is used to Manage Stakeholder Engagement is a useful tool to allow problems to be raised and addressed. Regular communication is vital, so that these issues are not allowed to fester.
The Manage Team process stresses conflict management and offers several approaches to dealing with this. You can force your will on the group and insist they do things your way. This is fine if you can be sure you are always right. However, this approach does discourage people from contributing and can lead to a very passive team that is effectively working to rule.
Another approach that is not recommended is withdrawing or avoiding. Turning a blind eye to issues might work in the short term, but they can sow the seeds of serious problems down the line. A better approach is to accommodate or smooth over conflicts. This involves highlighting the common ground between opposing factions and seeking compromise. The big goal of this is to remove the conflict.
Unfortunately, conflict often leads to clever new ideas. In a person’s efforts to point out flaws in another’s thinking, they might stumble on a much better solution. The Project Management Institute encourages collaboration and seeking multiple viewpoints before deciding. Many companies proclaim that their people are their most important assets. If that is the case then we should make sure we listen to their views and offer them working conditions that facilitate their contributions.
Finally, the equipment we have acquired for the project needs to be maintained and its performance reviewed, so we can replace defective or inefficient tools quickly. Similarly, the materials we are using need to be examined to ensure that they are of an appropriate quality standard.