No one wants to have to manage with fewer resources, but project teams are being squeezed all the time. It’s likely that at some point in your career you will be asked to manage a project without being given all the resources that you would ideally need to manage it effectively. Unfortunately, that’s life nowadays – with the on-going financial difficulties in many countries, project managers are also feeling the pinch when it comes to resourcing a team. Here are 5 ways to manage a project with fewer resources than you would like.
1. Fast-track where you can
Save as much time as you can by fast-tracking tasks. Crash the schedule. The shorter the project duration, the less time the project team will spend working on project tasks overall. Cut out the unnecessary work by streamlining the amount of documentation you do. Project reporting also takes up a lot of time – could you do less?
This is not the project to introduce new processes – stick with what you know. It takes time to learn a new system or process, and this will slow the team down. Stay with your tried-and-tested enterprise project management system and leave introducing new processes or new technology for another day. If you have just changed your enterprise project management system make sure that everyone knows how to use it and get some consultancy help if you need it.
2. Be creative
Be honest about the situation with the project team and let them help you brainstorm some solutions. At this point, anything goes. Consider outsourcing, training other people so that they have will have the skills to help at a later point in the project, temporarily co-locating the team to see if that boosts productivity and increasing your hours over the short term.
Tap into the resources that you do have. Could any of the current team double up and take on a different role as well, perhaps using skills they developed in a previous job? Think creatively about where you could get extra help from such as offering a short-term work placement to a business studies student from a local university, or seconding an admin person on to the team as an opportunity for them to develop their career.
3. Motivate, motivate, motivate
Make sure that everyone on the team knows how their contribution is making a tangible difference to the project overall. They should also know exactly what the project vision is and how their tasks are helping to achieve it. Motivation can help you get a little bit more out of each individual, but this will only make a small difference to the project timescales overall.
Motivation can take many forms including bringing in cakes to share and organizing social events. Try to take your share of the mundane tasks yourself to show that you are actively sharing the burden. Financial incentives can also motivate some people, but be careful not to rely on these too much as it can create the expectation that team members won’t work unless they are being paid extra. However, if you can stretch to overtime payments or some kind of bonus for any out-of-hours working, then do. If your budget doesn’t stretch to financial incentives, saying thank you (often and genuinely) doesn’t cost anything.
4. Prioritize tasks and project goals
If you accept that you can’t do everything with the resources you have, you need to prioritize. Sit with your sponsor and go through the project’s objectives. Realistically pull out the things that you can achieve with the resources that you have. This is where clarifying the triple constraint of time, cost and quality is really important. Is there a fixed deadline (time)? Is the issue a fixed or reduced budget (cost)? Is the scope absolutely fixed or can you cut some requirements out (quality)? Agree what you absolutely must do and drop anything you can.
5. Don’t pretend it’s OK
While there are some things that you can do to manage a project with reduced resources, don’t ever pretend it is OK. Raise the issues you are facing with your project sponsor on a regular basis. Include them in project reports. Make sure the resource problems are logged on the project issue log. You can achieve this without sounding like you are constantly whingeing: raise your concerns in a professional way and state what you are doing about them. If you have identified several options, present these to your sponsor with a recommendation and ask them to make a decision about the best route forward.
Finally, consider the risk of saying nothing. If management sees you managing well this time, they could cut the resources available to you even further next time.