PROJECT MANAGEMENT CHALLENGES – Project Planning Lessons Learned (Part 9)


Project success and failure outcomes…  Planning the project properly, documenting the plan professionally and then implementing the plan successfully are likely the sources of most project success and failure outcomes.  Using best practices and learning from the experiences of others are effective methods for skill set development.  Many organizations that use project management on an ongoing basis close out projects with a compilation of “lessons learned.”  These firms have found value in studying the specific issues that have emerged in the past.

As part of the planning process, a review of relevant lessons learned can be instructive as well as a “sanity check” or completeness evaluation regarding the adequacy and comprehensive nature of your Project Management Plan.

This post continues the focus on issues in planning and problems that have their source or root cause in planning.  The subject is Resource Requirements.  In this regard, the post will focus on human resources or staffing.  This discussion is not focused on direct labor (e.g. construction craft labor, software engineering man-hours).

This post is the ninth in a Subject Series of discussions regarding current challenges being encountered in today’s project management.  More specifically, we have titled the series PROJECT MANAGEMENT CHALLENGES, since we focus heavily on the managerial aspects of program / project management.  This post addresses Resource Requirements lessons learned.

As discussed in Part 6 of this series, the use of team and stakeholder workshops can be an effective mechanism for achieving a well-developed Project Management Plan.  Start with the fundamentals and process.  Incorporate project initiation documentation.  Use lessons learned on similar projects.  Emphasize team participation.

A valuable industry reference is Project Management, A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling and Controlling; Doctor Harold Kerzner.  Kerzner presents a view of why plans fail, typical reasons which he indicates include:

  • “No one knows the staffing requirements.”
  • “No one has bothered to see if there will be personnel available with the necessary skills.”
  • “People are consistently shuffled in and out of the project with little regard for schedule.”

The notion here is that the human resource requirements have not been properly, completely and accurately assessed and planned.

The “take away” or lesson learned is that an adequate assessment of resource requirements needs to start robustly during project planning.  Stakeholders (who and how much time will be required) need to be thoroughly identified, consulted, aligned, and a path forward needs to be documented during the planning process.  Using plan development process as well as the Project Management Plan [or Project Execution Plan, Project Plan] to align all stakeholders and to sell the plan requirements is an effective means for dealing with this lesson learned.

There are several effective tools and techniques for facilitating resource requirement planning.  One is a solid resource-loaded schedule.  Another relates to matching resources with the Work Breakdown Structure [WBS].  Responsibility Matrices [RM], Responsibility Assignment Matrices [RAM] and RACI [Responsible, Accountable, Consult, Inform] diagrams are extremely useful in this process.  Experience has shown (please see above comments) that proceeding into project execution without a good plan for resource acquisition is very risky.  Take the time to complete the planning and Project Management Plan.

The RM’s, RAM’s and/or RACI’s need to be used to determine or confirm resource requirement estimates or assessments.  This is particularly true of part-time stakeholders and periodic resource needs.  Further, the Project Management Plan needs to couple or merge the resource requirements with (among other considerations) the communications plan.

In subsequent posts, we will address additional issues or problems often encountered in Project Planning.  The notion here is that lessons learned from problems that have their roots in planning and Project Management Plan use are potentially helpful in improving the work of the project team.

Good luck in avoiding these and other project planning pitfalls.  Let us all attempt to approach the practice or managerial challenge of project management with all knowledge, tools and lessons learned that are available.  Setting a solid foundation in the issues as well as the process is essential and has long term (project duration) benefits.  Happy reading and good luck in your project management challenges and endeavors…


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