STAFFING YOUR PROJECT MANAGEMENT TEAM (Part 4) – Acquiring People from the Market

This McLaughlin & McLaughlins Project Professionals post is the fourth in a series of discussions regarding current challenges with the staffing aspects of your project management team.  The focus is on the managerial aspects of human resource planning and acquisition.  This post (like Part 3, our last post) addresses acquiring the human resources (people) or staffing.  While the planning may be the most important activity or action in the process, the challenge ultimately is obtaining the people to implement your intended execution strategy.

There are many acquisition strategies.  These acquisition strategies differ for various market conditions, organizational situations, project needs and other project variables.  Markets that are very active/hot [oil and gas, mining, natural resources, etc.] present unique challenges.  Skill-sets that are in high demand [project controls, planning, scheduling, technical, etc.] present further unique challenges.  The project Human Resource Plan must address these unique challenges.  Further, the project plan and schedule must allow the time to complete the acquisition process as well as the requisite training/indoctrination.  Finally, the project budget must realistically provide for the cost of these resources (often expensive non-employee persons) as well as the acquisition costs (e.g. recruiters).  If this planning is not in place, do not launch into project execution.

Please Remember Teams of people [not machines and not software] build projects. Consequently, if you cannot acquire the requisite staffing, you are not prepared to execute the project [at least as planned].

Please Remember This is a team, not a group of individuals.  Have you noticed that so many sports teams with superstars rarely win championships?  Further, have you noticed that championship teams have few, if any, superstars?  It is the project team, not the individual that must be staffed and developed.  As they say, there is no “I” in team.

Sources that are used in this post are:

The acquisition process differs for differing organizations and types of projects.  PMBOK® provides guidance regarding the generic planning and management process (PMBOK, CHAPTER 9).  This can be adapted to the organizational structure and project specifics.

This PMBOK® process is structured around the following:

  • Inputs – Project Management Plan, Enterprise environmental factors and Organizational process assets”
  • Tools and Techniques – Pre-assignment, Negotiation, Acquisition and Virtual teams”
  • Output – Project staff assignments, Resource calendars and Project Management Plan updates”

Inputs and Output – please see prior post.

Tools and Techniques – This presumption of this discussion is that the acquisition of project people cannot or will not use internal (to the company/Enterprise) sources.  Hence, the source will be the marketplace.

When acquiring from the marketplace, two general options for the business/commercial relationship exist.  The person could become a permanent employee or a contract employee.  Company/Enterprise policies tend to drive this choice.  Some use contract positions with an option for permanent hiring.  Contract personnel are easier to terminate if the project is cancelled or completed.  Further, since contract personnel tend to command higher compensation than permanent employees, the contract approach can respect the company/enterprise pay scales and fringe benefit programs.

If contracting, there tend to be two choices, contracting for a team or for individuals.  The project marketplace may have specialty consulting firms that offer teams with requisite skill-sets and Ways of Working (WoW). This can create efficiencies in startup and operation if the team is well qualified and the WoW’s are sound.  Further, the team may include supervision and management.  Finally, if one team member is not well suited, this person can be replaced efficiently.

Hiring individual consultants on a contract basis can be slightly more time consuming and expensive (acquisition and operation) than hiring a team from a single source.  Further, these individuals will need to address the WoW’s for the team.  However, this choice can produce superior individuals with excellent skill-sets and WoW that have benefits to the entire project management team.

Key points in these strategies include:

  • Recognize the effort (time and budget) to acquire, indoctrinate and train
  • Recognize the Ways of Working (WoW) adjustments and challenges
  • Contracting for individuals can be done with or without WoW considerations
  • Use of mentor and understudy/apprentice persons can be very effective
  • Many sources of individuals (executive recruiters, market sources such as LinkedIn or job boards, etc.) (Enterprise/Company human resource functions can assist or implement)

Mentors and Understudies/Apprentices – The use of key Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) as mentors and staffing with inexperienced personnel can be a very compelling option.  The mentor, while expensive, can teach and train the inexperienced understudies/apprentices in the proper/best practices and company-specific WoW.  As this process matures and the training is completed, the inexperienced personnel can become a company/enterprise resource for future work.  Again, in hot/active industries, this approach has great merit.

A common problem is adopting the notion that you will merely hire personnel from competitors.  In hot/active industries, this is a very problematic concept.  First, the competitors have similar objectives and may aggravate the situation by hiring your key resources.  Secondly, these competitor resources may not be available or interested in changing employers.  Thirdly, this can lead to a costly and counterproductive bidding war.  Experiences in the Silicon Valley of California during the .com era confirm this dynamic.

Kerzner addresses the subject in (among other places) Chapter 4 ORGANIZING AND STAFFING THE PROJECT OFFICE AND TEAM. Several of his key topics are:

  • “4.8 The Organizational Staffing Process”
  • “4.10 The Functional Team”
  • “4.11 The Project Organizational Chart”
  • “4.13 Selecting the Project Management Implementation Team”

In the next post, we will continue to address issues, problems and solutions often encountered in acquiring the human resources for your Project Management Team.  The subsequent posts will also address issues in selecting and acquiring the project manager.  A strong and well qualified project manager will heavily influence the success of the project.

Good luck and let us be realistic and professional in the acquisition of people [staffing] for your project management team.  You must acquire the requisite quantity of personnel and skill-sets needed to implement your intended project execution strategy.  Otherwise, the execution strategy must be changed.  This is part of the interactive planning process.  M&M wishes you happy reading and good luck in your project management challenges and endeavors.

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