It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about large enterprises with thousands of employees, state agencies working on projects with outside consultants, law firms with teams of highly paid lawyers who have zero interest in being managed, nonprofits using volunteers who aren’t really working for you, or smaller firms wondering if there will be sufficient cash to pay their employees. Resource management is a popular topic. It’s keeping some executives up at night. But let’s be clear – managing concrete deliveries, conference rooms, and construction scaffolding is the easy part. The hard part is managing people.
The Agile movement has come a long way in transforming the way we think about managing project teams. Many now agree that agility is beneficial, if not mandatory, in this world of rapid change. There is a lot to be learned from that movement. This blog outlines several reasons why we need to completely rethink resource management. Next week, I will offer a follow-up blog that delves into how resource management can impact schedule management.
People have changed.
The way we work and the way we view work has been evolving over the years. The 50-hour work weeks that were so typical in previous eras are not so much anymore thanks to a growing conversation around work flexibility and the need for a balanced lifestyle. This is what the millennial generation has come to expect from a career, and frankly what everyone else should expect as well. Don’t we all want more autonomy, purpose, balance, and fairness?
With globalization, more teams are dispersed. Teams don’t just show up on site, and work from 9 – 5. There are often flexible hour policies. And there are often team representatives keeping the work going 24/7 – from somewhere across the globe. Even when teams are co-located (working in the same physical space) some workers spend some of their hours working from home or coffee shops.
People today are motivated by purpose.
I’ve noticed a growing trend of colleagues working on projects that don’t excite them. Employees today need to be motivated by purpose. But I’m not sure whether this is truly a change in the way people think, or the way we are communicating. Are they not excited because the projects are boring or are managers failing to communicate a compelling vision that excites people?
People cannot always commit to a schedule of availability.
It is important to understand that modern Gantt chart tools like Microsoft Project depend on a reliable schedule of availability. Without it, the premise behind the scheduling of your project fails.
On many business projects, team members have divided loyalties. For example, you may have subject matter experts who work a few hours a week. Your project is one of many other things they devote their time to, which means specifying which days of the week they will be working on your project is just not possible.
Can you imagine a trial lawyer or a doctor committing to a schedule for the next six months? What happens when a judge decrees that the lawyer who was supposed to draft a pleading has been suddenly called into court? Or, suppose that doctor working on five different projects suddenly is needed for cardiac surgery in another state?
Sometimes you have a situation where your team is going to evolve as the activities are better understood. Which means you don’t really have a firmed up team for a while. Yet, you are being asked when activities will be started and finished.
In many cases, the people you are working with are happy to commit to results, but a schedule of availability is out of the question. So, why can’t we focus on getting commitments to results rather than commitments to schedules?
The work has changed.
There has been a sea change in the business world over the last 75 years. Part of it is the rate of technological change that we are witnessing. As computing and storage power grows, the potential for artificial intelligence increases, and new opportunities, such as the Internet of Things and Blockchain present themselves. As these changes escalate, the need for businesses to stay competitive becomes more challenging. We are now looking at an increasingly project-centric world. For most companies IT is no longer a separate area, it is deeply integrated into all areas of the company.
Much is being written about the difference between complex and complicated projects. Complicated projects can be long, hard, detailed, and troublesome but are are linear and predictable. Complexity adds an element of ambiguity. Building a bridge over a wide river is complicated. Designing a new variety of bridge over that wide river is the complex part.
As technology changes at an increasing rate of speed, we face increasingly complex projects. And complex projects require a different scheduling approach – which requires a different approach to managing resources.
The numbers of communication methods and project tracking tools have grown.
Despite increasing communication options, there is the growing challenge of tracking and managing the communication needs and tasks lists from our varied endeavors. People often feel overwhelmed by the communications coming at them and have a hard time juggling their different tasks. On top of that, people are different. Some people prefer a memo that summarizes the problem and offers a recommendation, while others prefer a meeting to discuss the problem.
We can never please all of the people all of the time. But we can understand people’s preferences and meet them half way. Do you have a written log that documents how all of your stakeholders prefer to receive communications? Do you know how everyone on your team is managing that list of small tasks they need to remember to do?
Next week, I will discuss how we can rethink people management to improve project success. Stay tuned. If you need a reminder, sign up for my weekly newsletter and it will come to your inbox automatically.