Every Project Manager wants the “best” resource – Resource Planning Issues

In many organizations, its very rare for an employee to be dedicated to only one project. Many times, resources are stretched across several projects demanding their time. And when a new project comes along that is requesting a specific resource who may already be fully allocated, conflict may arise. Often times, project managers of the conflicting projects have project plans with a resource allocation on their individual computers, where no other managers in the organization can view the allocation. Or even worse, the project manager may have never done a resource planning exercise on the project.

In the first article listed below, author Donna Fitzgerald suggests the concept of a centralized project resource allocation system. Not having the centralized scheduling system to show the allocation of all resources potentially puts the projects the current resource is working on as well as future projects requesting his time at risk. By having the system in place, the project manager simply would need to go to the system to determine whether or not a resource could be allocated to the project. If a project manager really wants a specific employee on a project but that resource is overallocated, the manager has two options:  either find another resource (either through another team member or consultant), or push the project start date to another date.

Having a centralized system also requires buy-in from all portions of an organization, which potentially could be a difficult task. However, I feel if an organization were to implement such a solution, it would eliminate a lot of headaches at the resource planning phase of the project. Another potential solution to this type of problem would be to prioritize projects, either at the organizational level, or departmental level, or even at the resource level.

M - Project Manager?
M – Project Manager? Who knew!

In the second article, author Daniel Chou uses the James Bond movie “Casino Royale” and Dame Judi Dench’s character M to illustrate the allocation of various resources (e.g. James Bond) on various projects. In the movie, she manages from the top down, in that she is able to add/remove resources from tasks if a project is getting out of control or if it’s going well. Based on the various risks associated with a project, a manager can accommodate for those risks (hopefully seen in advance through the use of a risk management plan) by adding additional or removing resources at that time.

Does anyone in their current employment situation have a centralized location that shows the allocation of potential project resources? If not, how do you go about ensuring a potential project resource is not overallocated?




Non-Productive Team Members


As we all are aware, the success of a project is dependent on the team members who each have a contribution to the various milestones. Every team member has their own expertise that will help with the execution of a project, and every team member wants a project to succeed. However, there are times where a team member will fall behind in his/her tasks which may undoubtedly cause the project timelines to slip. There are several things that the project manager can do to help in this type of situation.

According to a blog posting by Barry Otterholt, if a project team member is falling behind in his tasks, the project manager needs to step in and help correct the situation before the project slips too far behind schedule and project team morale slips. The project manager should speak with the member in a tone that isn’t accusatory or from a manager to a subordinate, but from a colleague to a colleague and in an open manner. It may be that the employee is simply overloaded with additional work (which is common in these economic times). If this is the case, the issue is relatively easy to resolve, and the project manager can provide coaching or additional resources to help get the employee’s job done. While an additional resource (even a temporary resource) may be expensive, the cost of that employee may be less than the cost of the project not being completed on time.

Other issues, like personal problems or incorrect prioritization could also be the cause of a task to fall behind schedule for a team member. However, if all else fails, he/she needs to escalate appropriately. In another posting by Brad Egeland, if all attempts to “work it out” fails, the supervisor of that team member needs to be notified and he/she needs to be taken off of the project and a new resource needs to be assigned. As stated above, waiting too long can be detrimental to the project chemistry as well as the morale of other project team members.

Finally, Otterholt finishes his posting with a few quick tips about dealing with this type of a situation. First, ensure the team member takes responsibility for the task that is falling behind. Next, the project manager needs to show a willingness to help. Third, the project manager should be resourceful in finding a solution. Finally, if all else fails, the project manager should cut ties with that resource.

My question to everyone is how would/have you dealt with a problematic project team member in any project you participated in? If you were the project manager in a project where a team member is consistently missing deadlines, how would you handle the situation?