10 Resource Planning Steps For Humans (Part 4)

Paul Dandurand

Part 4 in the “People Resource Planning” series about how to improve the project management process through people planning

We left off in Part 3 with steps 5, 6, and 7: developing the team, making adjustments to the plan, and building consensus. We’ll conclude with steps 8, 9, and 10 and a bonus tip.

8. Prepare Plan B

Why: Something unexpected can happen that could destroy your people plan, thus putting the entire project at risk of failure. A key contributor could become ill or the project budget could get cut in half. Prepare in advance for such challenges and ensure everyone can bend and adjust to changes.

How: Make a list of all possible risks in collaboration with your project sponsors, stakeholders, and project team candidates. Everyone may bring different insights about possible future risks. As you list them, ask questions that could provide answers on how to reduce the risks. Here are some examples:

  • The project budget could be cut, which would require reducing people’s hours or assignments. Do you know which roles are priority and which are secondary? Which individuals would be the most important contributors to keep and which ones would reduce the impact if they were moved to another project?
  • If people are removed from the project, other people may need to pick up and could become overloaded and stressed. Can they fill in the roles and continue to contribute? What kind of ramp-up time may be needed for learning? Are your task descriptions detailed enough that the learning will be fast and easy if someone needs to step in to get the work done?
  • Scope change may impact the project. Although some of this can be avoided, there’s always the possibility scope change would be approved. This may require fewer people or more people with new skills. What are the possible scope changes? Discuss this with the project sponsor and the project output stakeholders.
  • People could become ill, quit, or get pulled off and moved over to a “more important” project. The same questions should be asked. What would we do? Who would pick up the slack? Where can we find replacements?
  • A project sponsor decision-maker might become unavailable due to trips, vacations, or other priorities. Do we have a backup decision-maker?

Try to obtain answers in advance as contingencies that could be turned into actions. This is a team effort by all involved. To save some time, as you go through the above steps in defining roles, people, dependencies, dates, etc., keep the risk questions in your head and ask people their view of possible risks, even if they give you availability.

No one has a crystal ball and can predict the future conditions of your projects, but if something goes wrong, it’s usually people-related. The easiest time to identify risks is when establishing project deadlines and team candidates. When you get some commitments, ask on the spot what they think could be risks they may face.

Agile: The agile parts of a hybrid project could have risks similar to the examples above, but another set of risks could come from a misunderstanding that agile/scrum is a silo from other parts of the project that includes waterfall lists and best-practice processes. There may need to be some education to show how agile approaches can work well with waterfall methods, and the two sets of people can succeed together through collaboration and sharing.

9. Engage people and be flexible

Why: People resource planning for projects will be a continuous effort not only for future projects but also for managing existing projects. As described in the Plan B step above, there are always risks, and your teams and stakeholders need to be flexible. The best way to a flexible culture that can adapt to changes is transparency and engaged people.

How: Set the expectations with team members and stakeholders that the people timeline is fluid and will be reviewed and adjusted. It should not come as a surprise nor cause unexpected hardship when people’s assignments need to be shifted. If you find that some team members are averse to change, find out why. A likely reason is that change is not accepted when people feel unprepared. Therefore, give them the tools for schedule visibility, not only for their own set of tasks and deliverables, but also for the entire project team’s work. Engage people to ask for help and provide help to others before issues affect the timeline. Your people resource planning will flex back and forth as needed, and that’s normal. However, the more support they get from you and give each other, the less chance for bad shifts. During execution, people planning and forecasting continues, so while engaging the team for their current project work, lay the path and be transparent for future project plans.

Agile: This step is the same for the agile/scrum parts of the hybrid project, but I would emphasize the importance of quick adaptation to new critical requests, shifts in requirements, and unexpected bugs. This requires training people to build confidence and learn to cope with a constantly changing environment.

10. Capture lessons learned and improve planning

Why: Some people planning needs can be complex, especially with limited budgets and limited available stars and sponges. You will stumble along the way, and you will figure out solutions to those problems. If you have your people planning process well-defined and easily customizable with improvements, you will stumble less, plan faster, and end up with great project results created by amazing people. Build process improvement into your people resource planning process.

How: It’s best to execute your resource planning process in a project or process tool that provides project template features. When you go through the planning steps and come up with roadblocks or new ideas to make planning smoother and more successful, jot down your notes on what happened and how to make the process better next time. Don’t wait until the end of your planning process to do this. Instead, get in the habit of making live contributions to your process, whether it’s in an Excel or Google sheet, PowerPoint slides, or a project and process tool like Pie.

We talked above about adding how-to descriptions to important project tasks so junior team members can learn new project roles. As project team members solve issues and offer help to their teammates, encourage the extra step of documenting their solutions into these task descriptions so the lessons learned can be made available inside project processes and their recipes for future projects. Again, sharing and documenting lessons learned should not wait until the end of the project, but rather be done throughout the engagement. This approach will indeed provide better end-project results and also improve the success of your people resource planning and forecasting processes.

Agile: Success factors with people planning for hybrid agile projects are similar to the above pointers on learning new roles and keeping the process fresh with ideas and lessons learned. In addition, improve your agile people planning process with ways to continuously build a culture of flexibility and adaptability for iterative sprints in a changing model. You might consider adding one repeatable step for each sprint that engages the scrum team to document lessons learned from agile planning issues and new ideas.

Free bonus! Resource planning steps ready to execute in Pie

We’re making the above steps available as an action steps template that’s ready to execute in a project for your future resource planning efforts. We created them in a Pie “recipe,” which is like a ready-to-use project template.

You can create a resource planning project from the recipe, modify the tasks to include other steps such as approving the plan, and then assign people and due dates, post issues and comments, and mark them done.

In the above screenshot, the user is hovering over step #5, which gives a nice popup showing the how-to description of that task.

To get your free version of the 10 Resource Planning Steps in a Pie “recipe,” follow these steps:

  1. Click here to sign up for your free Pie account.
  1. Send an email to support@pie.me requesting a free copy of the 10 Resource Planning Steps Recipe to be added to your free account.
  1. Kick off a resource planning project and follow the steps.

Then, chill out with some coffee and pie!

Read all four articles in the “People Resource Planning” series about how to improve the project management process through people planning.

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.