10 Resource Planning Steps For Humans (Part 3)

Paul Dandurand

Part 3 in the “People Resource Planning” series about how to improve the project management process through people planning

The previous blogs in our series explored the first four steps in improving the project management process: how to identify skills, define roles, determine dependencies, and assign draft project target dates. Here we’ll look at how to develop talent, make adjustments, and reach team consensus.

5. Find stars and sponges available for roles

Why: Once you understand which “people roles” are needed, you need available people to fit those roles to get work done.

How: Start with identifying the “stars.” They are individuals who have the most experience with the roles and also are the most engaged with asking questions and helping others who need help. Your project management tool should easily point out those who have held your needed roles in the past, but you still need to understand the complete picture with producing value for the entire team. One problem with stars is they are usually in high demand and are most likely already booked or overbooked. The next best people to find are those I call “sponges.” They are the future stars.

Sponges are people who are freshmen or juniors who have the desire to learn, are not timid in asking for help, and easily accept help from others. Unless the stars are also growing their knowledge, values, and kindness, the sponges could overtake them and become your best long-term investment. The new sponges will shine on your projects if your project tasks are well defined with best-practice descriptions including lessons learned from past stars. Review their timelines for availability gaps and project roll-offs. If it looks like someone is not available due to a project assignment, look again, since they may be assigned only part-time.

Agile: For your agile part of a hybrid project, follow the same ideas as above and ensure that you find people who can quickly adapt and thrive in a constantly changing environment.

6. Adjust project tasks, roles, and dates

People are the most important ingredient in your projects if you intend to produce great project results. Project plans that are cemented with tasks, roles, and dates may be a recipe for disaster if you cannot adjust them to fit your limited pool of people. You will need to be flexible.

You might have a list of great people for your future project, but their availability is uncertain. This is a good time to be flexible with your project tasks, role assignments, and start and due dates. If your project’s final delivery date is locked in stone for business reasons, then at least look at some flexibility with the tasks leading up to your deliverable dates that cannot be moved. Consider moving some dates earlier, and allow time gaps if that’s the best way to fit the right people who have limited and spotty availability. Your project tool should be helpful if you’re using dependencies to shift dates to better align with people’s availability.

Include your team members and candidates in the process of aligning tasks with people’s availability. If you’re too focused on doing everything in a silo by yourself, you may find yourself realigning dates and assignments and then redoing them later with feedback from others. Keep your process transparent and ask others to engage with your people-resource planning process.

Agile: You will also need to be flexible with your targeted sprint periods for the agile part of your hybrid project. The same rules apply here, even if your individual requirement tasks don’t have roles, dependencies, and dates. Look at the blocks of weeks allocated for your sprints, and work with the team’s availability based on the sprint timelines.

7. Obtain people’s consensus with the initial plan

Why: Your project will be at risk of failure if some players associated with your project are not in agreement when it comes to people planning and timelines. Obtain consensus with project team candidates, project sponsors, and other stakeholders to avoid future issues.

How: Now that you have established roles, identified great people, and adjusted deliverable dates and their supporting tasks, circle back to all people involved. Start with delivery-date agreements (including flexible options) from your project sponsors. Know your timeline limitations. Review with the project-team candidates their potential project roles and their task timelines. Obtain their agreements, and if there are any concerns with delivery dates, then balance the needs between the project sponsor’s expectations and the project candidates’ availability by iterating until the gaps are minimized. Ensure that you have identified all other stakeholders and also obtained their consensus with the plan. Get the project sponsor onboard with the identified project-people candidates and their availability to deliver on tight schedules.

Agile: Whether in the waterfall process or the agile/scrum parts of the project, the people-consensus needs, as explained above, are the same.

In Part 4 of this series, we’ll examine how to prepare for contingencies, keep people engaged, and continuously improve.

This article originally appeared on the Pie blog and is republished by permission.

Paul Dandurand

About Paul Dandurand

Paul Dandurand is the founder and CEO of PieMatrix, a visual project management application company. Paul has a background in starting and growing companies. Prior to PieMatrix, he was co-founder of FocusFrame, where he wore multiple hats, including those of co-president and director. He helped position FocusFrame as the market leader with process methodology differentiation. FocusFrame was sold to Hexaware in 2006. Previously, he was a management consulting manager at Ernst & Young (now Capgemini) in San Francisco and Siebel Systems in Amsterdam. Paul enjoys photography, skiing, and watching independent films. He earned a B.A. degree in Economics from the University of California at Berkeley.