Project Management Institute

Feeding the famine

VOICES In the Trenches

by Christian Roth

We have all experienced it: The project is approved, the contract is signed and you are now in charge of project execution. But the appropriate people are not available, and you can't put your team together as required for the project. The project has not even taken off, and already you get the sinking feeling that it's doomed.

If your next project experiences a lack of resources, these suggestions can help.

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Prioritize objectives. List and prioritize all objectives, get the client to endorse the priorities, and then publish the prioritized objectives to the team and stakeholders. For example, you may ask:

Is there a launch date to be met at any price?

Would a slight budget overrun be a major issue?

Has the client emphasized in the contract that his or her procedures and documentation systems must be adhered to?

Are there safety-critical systems and procedures involved?

Is there new technology to be developed and tested?

Be creative. When you are not provided with enough resources or people with the necessary experience, think outside the box:

Increase your workload and that of your team—a cost-effective solution, but one that may only work for small projects and over limited time periods.

If some of your team members have capacity, they may be able to wear several hats and help in areas outside their expertise.

Borrow resources from other departments or divisions within your company.

Obtain staff from outside your company, such as from a recruitment agency, consultant, contractor, supplier or client.

Outsource tasks such as structural analysis, design or source code.

Consider lean project execution (e.g. reduced documentation, reporting frequency or reporting content).

Consider fast-tracking, knowing that reducing project duration also shortens the overall time the team spends on the project.

Some options may involve training to get personnel up to speed. Others may overly stretch your budget. Or temporary relocation may be needed. Do not let these factors limit your brainstorming.

Keep raising the issue. List the most realistic and feasible options on a spreadsheet and determine their impact on the timeline, cost, quality, risks and customer value. Using your prioritized objectives, determine your three best options and compare them against the option of doing nothing. Draft a plan for implementation and managing the risks. Finally, equipped with your spreadsheet and plan, discuss with senior management.

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SOME OPTIONS MAY INVOLVE TRAINING TO GET PERSONNEL UP TO SPEED. OTHERS MAY OVERLY STRETCH YOUR BUDGET. OR TEMPORARY RELOCATION MAY BE NEEDED. DO NOT LET THESE FACTORS LIMIT YOUR BRAINSTORMING.

At this stage, you have realized two fundamental achievements: Senior management knows about the documented problem, and you have demonstrated proactive problem-solving and risk-management skills.

Going forward, devote a couple of lines in monthly reports to the resourcing issue and how it is progressing.

Motivate, praise and reward. Even if you obtain additional resources, your original skeleton team will be hit with additional work. New people need to be introduced to the project, procedures and workplace, and until they are fully on board, your people will have to work more.

Motivate them by being open about the problem and how the individuals can provide valuable support. Provide them with the opportunity to learn, maintain a no-blame work environment and arrange social interaction during the project. Acknowledge and recognize accomplishments, and celebrate success with a financial reward if you can.

Finally, keep in mind that unmotivated people are difficult to motivate. Make sure you have the right people on your team in the first place. PM

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Christian Roth is a senior project manager for Precision Mechatronics, a custom engineering and automation company in Sydney, Australia. He has extensive experience in the delivery of turnkey systems and factories to the food, pharmaceutical, packaging and materials handling industries.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

PM NETWORK AUGUST 2012 WWW.PMI.ORG
AUGUST 2012 PM NETWORK

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