Project Management Institute

Reactions to reductions

VOICES | Project Perspectives

Youcef Zidane
project manager, SINTEF Project Management Research Section, Trondheim, Norway

Projects always will suffer from a lack of human resources. Project managers should keep that in mind and plan to deal with it during the entire lifecycle of the project.

As I am assigned to projects in the bidding phase, I try to negotiate my project delivery date so I can extend the critical path duration. During that time, I find contingency solutions for issues arising from the lack of human resources.

Fewer people working increases the risk of poor product quality and loss of a sustainable productivity, so outsourcing some of the work can be one solution.


Frank Nestore, PMP
senior manager and consulting practice leader, Mathtech, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Project managers can get by with fewer human resources by better preparing for interactions with team members. That includes defining pre-work for meetings and working sessions to make the time spent most effective. Do some “drive-by” meetings— swing by someone's office to spend five minutes prepping them on an upcoming meeting.

If you truly are hamstrung on a project due to lack of resources, go to the project sponsor and define why the impact should be alleviated. But express the impact in terms that are meaningful to them and they can relate to, such as top-line growth or employee and staff morale.


Joy Beatty
vice president of research, Seilevel, Austin, Texas, USA

Do not reinvent the process on each project.

First, establish and use a lightweight requirements center of excellence with standard methodologies, processes and templates.

Second, use a requirements management tool. It saves time to implement the tool first. That way, your teams avoid the “unlearning curve” of retrofitting processes to a tool.

Third, if your team focuses on getting “good enough” requirements, you can get most of the features defined with 80-percent confidence.

Finally, ruthlessly prioritize where your team puts its energy based on business objectives. You likely will find they can cut scope and write requirements for needed features.


George Pitagorsky, PMP
owner, Pitagorsky Consulting, New York, New York, USA

Getting by with fewer human resources depends on the nature of the work and the nature of the people. A few highly effective, dedicated and focused people work faster and smarter than a large number of people in a complex hierarchy. So sometimes one can get by very well with fewer resources.

You get by with fewer resources by getting sponsors and clients to accept increases in duration. That guards against unhealthy pressure to keep to a schedule predicated on more people than are available. Take advantage of the reduction in communications and coordination overhead that comes with fewer people. In short, be realistic, manage expectations and avoid burnout.


Nério Pereira Silva
project manager, SANEL, São Paulo, Brazil

Typical project kickoff meetings should differ from kickoff meetings for under-staffed projects because you need to involve several departments of the company to communicate the fact that the project is understaffed. The management of each team member's department is the first to communicate that the project will be understaffed. A good mapping of each resource's specialty also is an important factor to extract the best from each of them.

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