This time of year is commonly used as time for getting ready – getting ready for that family vacation, getting the kids ready for the new school year, getting yourself ready for that overdue diet or exercise program, or simply getting ready to attack that new year’s resolution that you hastily made. Whatever the goal, it is accepted that there needs to be a period of readiness, of preparedness before you actually commence, and the same principle should be applied to delivering a successful project.
Both you and your organisation need to get ready to start executing that important project and as a project manager with the responsibility for the project’s success, you need to have confidence that all the resources, documentation, tools, approvals and processes you need are in place and ready to go.
So how do you know when your project is ready – not just to commence the Execution Phase, but to succeed?
Making sure that you have the right documentation, tools, approvals and processes in place are standard project management outputs from the Initiation and Planning Phases of your project methodology and without them, you should not be thinking about entering the Execution Phase.
However, there is one critical area where you need to be constantly checking your level of readiness – your project resources. Are your people ready to deliver a successful project?
How to identify your resource readiness
To start you need to ask yourself two key questions:
- Has the project scope and work effort been defined clearly enough to ensure the organisation as a whole has the capability to deliver the project?
- Does my project plan break down the project into phases, tasks, dependencies and milestones that are sufficient to allow me to manage the resource efforts and ensure staff have the capabilities needed to succeed?
Once you can answer “Yes” to both of these questions, you need to look at whether your project team is ready. Does the team you have been assigned have the right number of resources, are they available when you need them, do they have the skills and knowledge to complete their assigned project activities – you need to quantify the project teams readiness in real-terms and understand if there are any risks to achieving a successful outcome.
I use a series of questions to help me determine whether the project team is “ready”:
- Do I have enough staff to meet my current schedule deadlines?
- Does each individual have the required skills (technical and otherwise) to carry out their role in the project?
- Is anyone person a potential single point of failure for the project?
- Are all roles and responsibilities clear, communicated and agreed upon?
- Have I allowed contingency for annual leave, sickness and conflicting priorities?
- Do I have solid commitments from both internal and external resource owners?
- Do I have the authority to assign project resources and manage any performance issues?
- Does my team have a positive attitude towards successfully delivering the project?
If I am cannot satisfy myself that the team is ready, then I need to look at ways to mitigate these risks. Some common mitigation strategies include:
- Identifying resource constraints as project risks and listing them in detail in the project risk register.
- Revising the project plan and schedule to cater for any resource constraints.
- Reducing or revising the project scope to allow for completion with the known resource constraints.
- Engaging external resources temporarily to assist in meeting project activities, or to back-fill operational roles.
- Engaging resources from other parts of the business to provide project assistance.
- Restructuring the project into smaller deliverables, with more frequent milestones so that progress can be closely monitored, and issues dealt with more quickly.
One of the biggest risks to successful projects is resourcing, whether it be an insufficient amount of people, a lack of necessary skills in the people you do have, or simply a lack of availability of the right people at the right time.
As project managers we choose to adopt a consistent approach to managing projects, and ideally use a methodology to identify, prepare and manage risks and issues that can compromise project execution. Hopefully this article will help you to consider how to better manage resource risks to your project and move towards improving your project management practices and ensuring you can manage your projects more successfully.