Rethinking How We Use Our Resources

By: CATHERINE DAW |  Published: SEPTEMBER 2018

Every single company I have spoken to recently has voiced their concerns about having too much work and not enough people to do it. We are all trying to do too much with too little. Executives need to rethink how to best use their people and capabilities. So much of this time and energy could be saved if we reduced the amount of negotiating, hoarding, and hall way discussions occurring in your organization to overcome scarce resources.

Today’s struggle with resource management leads me to believe we need to go back to some form of dedicated project resources with strong subject matter expertise well suited for initiative execution.

A look back at dedicated resource management

When I first started as a project manager early in my career I had the luxury of dedicated resources assigned to my initiatives. And gasp, we were often even co-located! Not so today and with good reason.

Initiatives today are much more complex, require resources across many functions, geographies, and even different organizations. Many resources aren’t required for the full duration – some even for brief moments or interspersed through the life of the initiative. The use of a matrix organizational structure has become the norm.

The diagram below shows the difference between running the business and changing the business (through programs and projects) and the need for different structures and application of resources to each.


Source: Ross Garland article on capital project governance

The matrix approach is making us less efficient

Project delivery is taking longer, costing more, and resource conflict is high. The pressures of competition and time to market means we need to use our high valued resources on the highest valued work.

In a matrix environment resources are shared for both the day to day running of ‘business as usual’ operations and the world of initiatives, programs and projects. Many resources are expected to multi-task doing operations and project work. This means doing some of this work off the side of their desk and invariably, one or the other assigned work suffers. Typically it’s project work as operational work will almost always take precedence and the loyalties of people will fall within the functional, corporate structure where their boss lives and performance is generally measured.

Not everyone is meant for program and project management work

Operational work must remain a core of the organization’s functioning and many people are excellent at that work and want to do it. Sure any initiative will need some shared resources the question is how many and when?

Finding, keeping and developing the right fit resources for initiative work isn’t easy. They need to be capable of thinking and acting more strategically. Focused on future oriented activity where you may not see the results immediately makes it even more challenging. The intensity is high as it is much more driven by specific objectives, new types of work, and are often time constrained. It also is shaping change in how the organization may function or look in the future – project work is indeed an agent of change by definition. The skills, adaptability, and capability of key project resources are critical success factors.

Often organizations are contracting for external resources who can be dedicated to the initiative. There are several downsides with this approach – knowing and understanding the business is limited, knowledge transfer to staff generally doesn’t happen and core expertise within your own organization is overlooked. While using select internal resources exclusively for initiative has limitations their expertise is a key component of value to a project.

By dedicating project resources with high value capability and rotating them in and out of the functional side of the business it provides a focused group operating within a project structure without the chattels of functional operations. Committed project teams are more likely to execute with minimal disruption, increased concentration, and a higher chance of meeting objectives, time constraints, and within cost.

Effective and efficient use of resources for both operational and change work is essential in a world of trying to do more with less. People resources in particular drive both sides of the business. Being more deliberate on how we use their expertise and deliver value is vital.