Project Practitioners > Proper Methods for Resource Planning

Proper Methods for Resource Planning

By Ann Drinkwater

Controlling and micro managing creative, knowledge workers generally doesn't work. Conversely, providing an arbitrary delivery date or even allowing the team to completely self regulate work without a delivery date, doesn't work either. We have all heard of Parkinson's Law (work expands to fill the time available for its completion), but don't try and run your business with this principle. Tried and true project management planning, scheduling and controlling will more scientifically determine the time needed to complete work assignments, effectively manage the execution of the work and create a reliable, realistic and healthy environment.

Along with, and surprisingly sometimes in conjunction with Parkinson's Law, some organizations take agile too far, with a completely hands off approach to managing resources. While it is true that we always seem to get done what is critical in the time we have, you shouldn't provide your team, unrealistic and unachievable dates – thinking that the team will get it done. This may work when you are small and the tasks are predictable and less complex. When the variables and scenarios increase, so should your techniques and process:

  1. Employ sound project management planning techniques
    1. Determine the goals of the project
    2. Look at all the factors and determine the drivers. Are you working from a fixed timeline? If so, this will be important as you estimate the time needed to complete sub tasks.
    3. Determine the high level requirements
    4. Break down the requirements into a WBS
    5. Determine the necessary resources and plot available resources
    6. Estimate the time needed to complete, by resource and task
    7. If working backward from a date, split the work up into phases
  2. Involve the team in determine options
    1. Ensure the team doing the work, is actively involved in scoping and estimating the work. This is fundamental and a key part of your team's health and your project's success. Don't be a manager or organization that independently sets orders or dates, without consulting with your employees.
  3. Communicate the goals and your plan
    1. Once you have a preliminary plan, communicate this plan to the necessary stakeholders. Early and ongoing communication is essential. 
  4. Control the project
    1. Keep close tabs on the hours remaining for each task. These can be updated by the team through various tools, but the best method is direct communication and dialogue on what is outstanding. This gives you an opportunity to ask questions and interact on what if scenarios.
  5. Dynamically determine the right balance of collaboration
    1. This should be based on your environment, your projects and your resources
    2. Try different approaches and mix things up. If something seems too stringent for your organizational culture, soften areas that aren't as critical.

Allowing the team full reign over what gets done and when isn't effective. Our job as managers is to help remove obstacles and to allow the team to focus on the work, working towards an agreed upon target.

Organizations that manage themselves by Parkinson's Law tend to be reactive, lack the proper planning and foresight and appear to be doing everything last minute. With everything on our plates, it can be tempting to take a completely hands off approach to determining resource needs. However, this won't save anyone any time in the long run. Take the time to properly plan upfront. 

~Ann Drinkwater






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