Small Projects

Whenever a project manager has team members on the project, he needs to recognize the needs of managing human resources. However, these small projects will probably not need to worry too much with formal people management processes and techniques. First, if it is a small project the project manager does not have to acquire much staff (if any). The project team is most likely assigned by a functional (staffing) manager. There is not much opportunity to develop the team members since the project is probably short. There is also little opportunity to formally manage people other than making sure the team members know the work they are responsible for and making sure that the work is completed successfully. Similarly, a small project is normally not going to run into many people problems.

Medium and Large Projects

Projects of this size, especially those on the larger size, tend to have many more team members for a longer period of time. These are the project where your people management skills come into play. This is also where the full people management process of staff acquisition, development and management are required.

The following process areas tend to account for the majority of the work for managing the people on your team. 

  • Develop Human Resources Plan. This process is used to describe the work associated with establishing policies, roles and responsibilities, job descriptions, staffing strategies, etc. for your project. Some of the information you need may be available from your Human Resources Department. For instance you are probably not going to have to create customized job descriptions for your project. Your HR Department probably already has those available. However, many of the aspects of Human Resources Planning will be specific to your individual project. The overall approach to acquiring and managing resources on your project is described in the Staffing Management Plan.
  • Acquire Project Team. This is the work associated with determining the type of resources you need on your project, finding them and actually making them available for your team.
  • Develop Project Team. This is the work associated with making sure your team has the right skills and that you are providing coaching to help the team members grow technically and professionally. 
  • Manage Project Team. This process is associated with assigning work on the project and ensuring that the work is completed on time. This also includes providing performance feedback, managing people-related problems and ensuring that the team is cohesive and high-performing.

Allocating Resources in a Matrix Organization

In large organizations, or on large projects, you may have the luxury of full-time resources for your entire team. However, in many (or most) situations, the project manager must utilize shared and part-time resources to complete the work. Some resources may be working on multiple projects, while other resources may be working in support (or operations) roles as well. The process of gaining and retaining resources in this environment can be difficult and is related to the way your organization is structured.

In a matrix organization, people are assigned full time to a functional organization, but can be temporarily assigned full time or part time to a project as well. In this case, the functional manager may be responsible for part of a team member’s workload and a project manager may be responsible for assigning the work associated with the project. If you are in an organization where you have a project manager that is different from your functional manager, you are working in a “matrix” environment. The matrix organization is especially efficient if your project does not need a full-time commitment from people in the supporting organization. These people can be used part time on one or more projects while also continuing to report into another organization structure.

The matrixed organization can be the most efficient at utilizing and leveraging people’s time and skills. However, it only works if the functional manager and project manager (or multiple project managers) recognize the challenges and work together for the company’s overall benefit.

You need to maintain a planning window of upcoming projects and an estimate of their resource needs. If your staffing requirements fluctuate a lot from month-to-month, or if the projects cannot be forecast many months in advance, you can at least plan using a three-month rolling window. You then update and refine the plan on a monthly basis. The closest month should be pretty firm. Two months out should be pretty close. Three months out and beyond is best guess.

On the other hand, if the projects in your organization are typically longer, and your staffing plan is well understood, you may want to maintain a six to nine month planning window and update the plan every quarter. The planning process should include the appropriate project managers and functional managers who tend to share a common pool of resources.

After the planning comes the proactive communication. Remember that in a matrix organization, project managers need resources to do their work, but they do not own them – the functional managers do. So, the onus is usually on the project managers to make sure that the resources are available when they are needed, and that there are no surprises. For instance, if you and the functional manager agree that a specific set of people will be available for one of your projects in two months, don’t just show up in two months and expect them to be ready to go. In fact, you should expect that they will not be ready if you have not communicated often and proactively. The project manager should gain agreement on resources two months in advance. The resources should be confirmed again at the next monthly staff allocation meeting. The project manager should double-check resources again two weeks before the start-date, and follow-up with a reminder one week out. You are much more likely to have the resources available when you need them if you take these proactive steps.

 

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