How To Resource A Project

A guide on what to consider when planning your project resources.

Chef putting team together

The conventional wisdom on project and programme scheduling has it that if you increase the amount of resource the time taken to completion will reduce. Software scheduling tools will work all this out for you providing they have been set up correctly but what should you as the project leader be considering from the outset? We are of course talking about people here in terms of resource, a somewhat impersonal description it has to be said.

Perhaps the first thing to consider is the type of project itself. By this we mean is it a multi-phase project with each phase having different characteristics – a design phase followed by some form of implementation? Such projects require different skill sets within the project team and significant time and energy spent on providing the lead by the project manager. Is it a project that spans a number of different functions and disciplines? Again, significant effort will be required to ensure a common understanding is maintained across the project team.

So back to increased resources leading to reduced timescales. Where this is straightforward to envisage is in projects or phases of projects that have a clear line of sight to the end.

Let’s consider a construction project to upgrade a section of road. There will be a phase of the project that is involved in working out designs and plans that will be conducted by a relatively small team of specialists. Would increasing the number of experts at this stage speed things up? Probably not – definitely a case of ‘more cooks spoiling the broth’. Once the design work has been completed and we get into the construction phase there are different disciplines at work that’s for sure. What is also different is that it is very clear what’s required to get from the starting point to the successful finish point. Would increasing the project workforce in this construction phase help reduce timescales to completion? Almost certainly yes, notwithstanding any practicalities involved.

This example is perhaps one where increasing resourcing can also mean using separate teams so that shift-work can be carried out to further speed up completion. It would be difficult to conceive of how such an approach might be adopted in the earlier design phase. Just how much extra resource is used needs to be a judgment based on the actual costs involved and that of managed any extra resources (key if multiple shifts are used) and the expected return for completing in an earlier timeframe.

[Tip: Remember that clients may not have the funds to pay early as their budgeting systems may prevent them from doing so. It is essential to maintain a good and open relationship with sponsors and clients when considering such changes.]

There are three aspects to consider when scheduling your resources or changing them in an existing project:

  1. Project Type – R&D or design projects require set skills and disciplines and need time to come up with workable solutions. Adding more architects to the design team for a new building design will only bring in different opinions that will have to managed – all this adds time. A project with a straight line of sight between start and finish such as in construction or coding (after the software design is complete) will benefit from increased resourcing – but keep an eye on the ROI.
  2. Project Team – a project team that is more or less from one discipline could well benefit from an increase in numbers providing they take into account the type of project as mentioned above. Where this gets awkward though is when the team is multi-disciplinary. What project leaders/managers often forget is that by increasing the size of their team they have to put in place sufficient time and effort to ensure the communication between different disciplines is maintained. This in itself may require extra team members.
  3. Project Complexity – A project that consists of different phases requiring different skills and functions and a project team that comprises different disciplines who have to work together is complex. Add to that distributed teams and team members perhaps working in different parts of the world in different languages (and business cultures) and delivering their elements of the project in different counties and you have a truly complex project. If you have some of these elements (and there are many more) you must ensure you have sufficient resource to lead and manage the project team itself. This may seem obvious but what is needed here is the acknowledgement that leading and managing the team is part and parcel of the project and not merely an administrative overhead. Without it, no project gets delivered.

In Summary

No two projects or programmes are the same so when faced with having to schedule resources ensure you don’t just think about what’s been done before. Consider the project type and its complexity together with the skills and disciplines needed in the project team. Once you have done that there’s just the small task of going out and recruiting the right project team members.

You might also be interested in Getting Teams Working

Picture courtesy of HikingArtist.com



Providing the Lead

Group of WomenWhen it comes to the successful delivery of pieces of work it seems to me that the one thing that stands out above all else is how people co-operate and collaborate to ‘get the job done’. Now this isn’t saying that technology, processes, systems and methodologies are of no use, of course they are, they allow people to gain an understanding of how to complete their tasks and assist in that completion. Those systems and methodologies are worthless on their own. It is only their intelligent use by human beings that enables work to move forward and projects to be delivered.

Everyone who has been on a training course will remember what it is like to be given a task as a group and told to go away and come back in a set period of time with your group’s answer. There are many things at play here not least of which is the development of a group dynamic for the period of the course (or maybe just that one task). What often happens though is that after a period of everyone talking about what needs to be done and how it could be achieved one individual starts to provide the lead. It might be soon after the group has been told to start or it may take some time.

How long it takes for that leader to come forward does in itself say something about individual drives. Does the self appointed-leader who comes forward straight away believe they are best placed or are they used to taking control in situations? What are the thoughts of the leader who gradually appears from the pack after a period of time? Did they get frustrated at the lack of action in moving forward or did they decide that as no-one else had done so they had better get on with it as they were running out of time and wouldn’t achieve their goal? Whatever their reasoning the fact that they took the plunge and started to provide the lead allows everyone else in the group to stop worrying about that aspect of the group working and start concentrating on the task at hand.

So does this happen back in the workplace? Well, perhaps not when we are thinking about the appointment of CEOs but throughout each and every organization every day of the year there are situations where groups of people have to come together to achieve particular tasks or projects. A leader will be appointed for significant projects but even in this instance there will be parts of the project when his or her specialist knowledge and experience doesn’t fit the need of the piece of work. Rather than blundering through and trying to make it work more experienced and self-aware leaders will let the best person for that aspect of work come to the for. Better still, if they ask for someone better suited to step forward they are sending out a huge message of trust in their project team.

The training course scenario is more often replicated when groups of individuals are obliged to collaborate in order to get their normal business objectives achieved. Some people will automatically assume the lead, which can help or hinder depending on the way they approach it or the culture of the organization. Other groupings will work together co-operatively for a period of time until maybe only an outsider looking in will recognize that one individual is directing operations.

All groups of people who need to achieve tasks or projects will have someone within their midst who is providing the lead. That individual may be self-appointed and may or may not be fully accepted by the rest of the group or they may emerge over a period of time as the one person steering the group forward towards their goal.