Jun 9, 2010

Why Is Resource Management So Hard?

Posted by Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin in Project & Program Management, Governance, Resource Optimization | 1 Comment

If you missed Kent Crawford's webcast on Resource Management Challenges May 25th (like I did), you might want to listen to the recorded version available here. This isn't a new topic for us, but it was interesting to see, in our recent State of the PMO study, that even the most mature enterprise PMOs continue to struggle with the all-important task of having the right numbers of the right people available for projects.

Listening to the questions people asked of Kent at the end, I was struck by how simple the solutions are. (Of course, that's the thing about experts: they always make it look easy!) Yet this is an area where even sophisticated, experienced people have trouble. I had to think a while about why that should be so.

Kent said (I'm paraphrasing here): Know who your people are and what they can do (resource library); set priorities (portfolio management system) and establish rules for initiating projects (governance).

Then make sure people aren't doing end-runs around your process.

Aha. I have a feeling this is where the difficulty arises. Any process or system is only as good as the commitment to it. Often what people agree to in principle, they have a hard time following in practice. (Think of your last diet or exercise plan, for example.)

Partly this is because it's human nature to want our short-term needs satisfied, while the long term goes begging. Daniel Goleman's book Ecological Intelligence has a terrific discussion of this phenomenon, tracing it to our hunter-gatherer roots, which produced a brain wired for immediate, concrete dangers and satisfactions ... a brain that trips us up when faced with more subtle risks and rewards.

Too often, the gap between capacity and strategy seems very abstract (except perhaps to the person who has had 150% of her time scheduled for her). To make the issues more concrete, Kent recommended creating graphics to simply, and visually, express the gap between planned work and resource availability. Any other ideas out there?


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1 Comment on Why Is Resource Management So Hard?

Paul Lombard says:

  There is a common strand that runs through all of the four items that Kent mentioned; Leadership commitment. Leaders own systems, and it is Leaderships responsibility to establish and support those systems. It is my experience that the Leadership level, the “owners” of the system, are the most challenging to ensure their practices remain consistent with the defined principles. Their role in effective resource management cannot be overstressed. I would be interested in hearing what PMO leaders do to build that commitment and consistency.



Posted on July 7, 2010 at 9:07 am

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