Be Proactive to Ensure Project Staff is Available as Needed

Sunday, March 10, 2019, 6:00 AM | Leave Comment

Managing and allocating staff can be a challenge. In large organizations, or on large projects, you may have the luxury of full-time resources for your entire team.

However, in many (or most) situations, the project manager must utilize shared and part-time resources to complete the work.

In a matrix organization, people are assigned full time to a functional organization, and are temporarily assigned full time or part time to a project as well. In this case, the functional manager may be responsible for part of a team member’s workload and a project manager is responsible for assigning the work associated with the project.

Project managers in a matrix organization often feel they have responsibility for delivering results but little authority over the staff. In fact, this is usually the case. You can certainly plan for the types of resources you need. However, will the resources actually be available when you need them?

There are many things to worry about on a project. Worrying about resources far into the future is not one of them. A project manager does need to worry about resources, however, over in shorter-term window. For most projects, you need to maintain a detailed planning window of your resource needs over the next three months. This technique is referred to as rolling wave planning. You then update and refine the staffing needs on a monthly basis. The closest month should be pretty firm. Two months out should be pretty close. Three months out and beyond is best guess.

Planning for your staffing needs is very important. However, making sure that the resources are actually available requires proactive. A project manager needs resources to do the work, but the project manager does not often not own them – the functional managers do. So, the onus is usually on the project managers to make sure that the resources are available when they are needed, and that there are no surprises.

If you and the functional manager agree that a specific set of people will be available for one of your projects in two months, don’t just show up in two months and expect them to be ready to go. In fact, you should expect that they will not be ready if you have not communicated often and proactively. The project manager should gain agreement on resources two months in advance.

The resources should be confirmed again at the next monthly staff allocation meeting. The project manager should double-check resources again two weeks before the start-date, and follow-up with a reminder one week out.

In this prior example, the proactive communication makes it much more likely that the resources will actually be available when you need them.

You are much more likely to have the resources available when you need them if you take these proactive communication checks.

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This column is © copyright to and originally appeared in their weekly project management tip newsletter.

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