Part 5(Inability to Get Team Members)

A common challenge many clients face in project management is simply being able to get enough people onto the project team. To build crucial momentum, a successful project requires sufficient team members to take care of all aspects of the planning and execution.

What makes this problem especially insidious is that in some cases, it may initially appear that you have enough willing team members for your project. What becomes apparent as the project gets underway however is that a significant number of these members are already overcommitted on other projects and therefore unable to contribute fully in their role as intended.

This can also be a timing problem, where people assigned earlier to your project are unavailable at its commencement due to other projects they are involved in running late. Then there are the situations where recently completed projects fail, leading to emergency situations that occupy human resource, leaving your project stuck on the runway.

Many dedicated employees like to seem as helpful as possible, which is why it is common for line managers to accept new projects even when they are aware that their department has no spare resource. This is setting up your project for failure even before it has begun. It is essential you have sufficient resource available to you at the outset of your project, as a slow start is demoralizing for the team and leads to further wasted time and frustration, and sometimes to the whole project having to be re-launched months after the intended date when it was due to be complete.

Project managers will frequently try to shoulder the burden of under-resourced departments themselves, rather than escalating the issue and asking for more resource. While this is understandable, and shows impressive dedication, it is more likely to lead to burnout and mistakes being made.

There may also be competition between departments for what project should take priority. Frequently, clients will have several projects on the go, and all of them are regarded as a No. 1 priority! This is clearly not conducive to smooth progress, especially when resources are limited.

To address this issue, it is necessary to begin at a high level, listing all the projects currently in progress and projects that are planned to begin over the next 12 months. This list then needs to be reorganized in order of priority. This will require firm decision-making, with a senior manager available to act as referee and to ensure that the priorities align closely with the overall strategic objectives of the organization.

Now that you have a complete list of all current and planned projects, in order of priority, it is time to reassess team members allocated to each. You can now transfer resources away from lower priority projects, towards the projects which are most mission-critical in the next few months. If you are unsure that the ability and experience of team members currently involved in lower priority projects will be sufficient, you can try assigning these less experienced team members to assist members of your core project team with specific tasks. This can greatly speed up progress on task lists and action items.

It is essential that your priority list is reviewed at least monthly, and reorganized as necessary, considering the various stages of the projects in progress. Time worked on projects should be reported without exception, regardless of where on the priority list these projects fall. Team members will often default to spending the most time on projects they enjoy (‘pet projects’), rather than projects of highest priority, which again can leave your project lacking in sufficient resource.

It may be necessary to take even more radical action, by placing less important projects on hold to remove the temptation for team members to devote time to them when there are more urgent matters that need attention first. Full and transparent status reports on the key projects, clearly stating any lack of resource, will lead to a quicker resolution. It may sound obvious, but in our experience this is a key topic that many project managers tend to downplay or even avoid altogether.

Project management training from Cadence will help your project managers and teams to set priorities, plan for and properly communicate resource requirements, and better delegate tasks to ensure an even distribution of workload. When your organization needs to demonstrate project management prowess, contact Cadence. We won’t disappoint. Why not head over to our Testimonials page to see what others have said about the transformational power of our programs?

For the entire Ask Cadence – Project Problem podcast series, visit iTunes.