Resource management can be painful. Department managers know it; any manager who has direct reporting resources knows it. There's performance reviews, raises, staff meetings, needy resources – it all happens. Thankfully, the project manager often manages in a matrix environment and none of their project staff actually reports directly to them except for the specific project. But there are still headaches in keeping the project fully staffed, handling any conflicts that arise, ensuring client interfaces are going well and that project requirements are being met on a daily basis. It can sometimes be a very complex juggling or balancing act.
From my own experiences, there are usually four key areas where problems can originate and keeping those in view and in check can help keep project resource management problems to a minimum. Adding focus to them during problematic times can also help reduce or resolve resource issues and keep the project on the right track.
Aim for a conflict free project team. Conflict on the team can be deadly to the project. It needs to be resolved quickly and in the best interest of continuing forward and hopefully uninterrupted progress on the project. Meet with conflicting resources and gain quick resolution whenever possible. Meet separately and then as a group. Can the conflict be resolved? If not, then action must be taken and - unfortunately - that usually means replacing one or more resources which can be costly and risky to the project. Don’t do it unless absolutely necessary; the quicker you take action the quicker you will be back to productively moving forward on the project. No room for procrastination and conflict here.
Check for communication and collaboration issues Is the team collaborating productively? Are you as a group collaborating productively with the project customer? Are you using a collaborative project tool or platform and if you are, is it working well or lacking? Consider going back to the drawing board and figuring out a different option for collaboration and overall management of your project portfolio management processes. Come out of the gates tomorrow - and I mean that figuratively and not literally as you need to take time to evaluate and do it right - with the right solution for the project, team and project customer.
Meet with the client - any issues with the project delivery team members? We often assume all is well with the project client if they aren’t complaining or saying anything. While that may often be the case, it may not be. Sometimes the client is too busy or hasn’t yet pinpointed what they are confused or frustrated about or just haven’t been bothered enough to say anything. But a resource-focused health checkup with the customer is never a bad thing and whether there are any issues or not, just the fact that you checked in with them will add to their confidence level and make them feel better about the project and your team immediately. So check-in with them. It’s worth it.
Replace rogue resources. Replacing project team members can be risky, time consuming, expensive and potentially disruptive to team communication and collaboration. I’ve had team members that seemed like they may end up being problematic, but after weighing options and their strong relationship with other project team members I realised it was better to just manage and work through any rogue behaviour or conflicts as they arose - and it didn’t hurt that they were the best available for skills I needed.
However, there can be times when they cause more problems than they are worth to the project and you have to figure out how to move in without them; and yes I've been through this as well... sometimes it is just unavoidable. Rogue behaviour can be alright at some price but not at any price. Work with the problem resource and try to change behaviour, but if it’s a repeat offender they will probably have to go. Explain as best you can to the client because a project delivery team with revolving personnel may cause the client frustration and lower their confidence and trust.
Summary / call for input
I very much enjoy leading projects and all the daily challenges that go with it. But resources can bring headaches. Keeping staff fully utilised on the project, knowing when resources are scheduled to be on other projects, and when you need resources from other projects, can really keep a project manager up late at night either planning or breaking out into a cold sweat. Even though they may not be your direct reports, the issues are still real and do involve the project manager on all levels.
Readers, what's on your list? Do you agree with these? What would you change or add? Please share your own thoughts and discuss.