Once your organisational strategy is in place, you should be looking at how you can deliver the projects that will help you achieve those strategic goals.
That sounds fine in principle, but the big challenge for businesses is making sure that they have the people to do the work.
You may already have a team of perfectly skilled, independent workers who are available at a moment’s notice to do the tasks you require of them. But somehow I think that if organisations did resource requirement planning properly they would realise that their workforce falls short of what’s needed to deliver the strategy.
Strategic delivery is more challenging than ever before. We need people who can deliver in an uncertain environment, and who are comfortable living with constant change and emergent strategies. We need people who are capable of working in collaborative teams and interconnected networks, where vendors, customers and staff come together to do what’s required, often without formal role descriptions or boundaries between positions. We need team members who can influence without authority, and work within matrix structures successfully.
All of these are skills that project team members can learn, if we only take the time to build their skills in those areas to ensure they have what’s required to complete their projects successfully. And if we want our projects to succeed, and to have every chance of delivering the benefits we ask of them, it makes sense to give our teams the tools they need to succeed as well.
Understanding Resource Requirements
When you are looking at what resources are required to deliver strategic projects, you have a number of tools available to you. Here’s the most common approach to understanding the required resources.
Start with the Skills
Step 1: First, work out what skills are required to deliver the strategic projects. Don’t think about the people you actually have access to. Plan what would be required in a perfect world where you have any type of resource available for any length of time. Take into account the portfolio of projects and how you would align the available resources to projects over time.
Then the Workforce
Step 2: Now look at the existing workforce. Which team members fit neatly into the resource requirement boxes you identified in Step 1? Some might. Some might need training or support to help them get there. Some might be redundant given the profile of the work you are taking on. For example, if you are decommissioning your C++ systems and moving everything to Java, you wouldn’t need to keep your C++ developers (although you might decide to offer to reskill them). You may also find that you need a certain type of skill for a very short period of time and that there isn’t the requirement to have those skills in-house longer term. These could be the resources you hire in for the duration – contract staff who might seem more expensive shorter term but whom it doesn’t make sense to hire longer term.
You’ll notice something about this resource planning: when you are doing it with a strategic hat on it’s bigger than just one project. Ideally, this exercise should be carried out at portfolio level with support from the Project Management Office (PMO). If you leave resource planning up to individual project managers (or even programme managers) you won’t get the full enterprise view of what resources it is going to take to deliver on your strategy.
And yes – it is time-consuming. You thought right. But you should do it anyway.
Meeting the Needs
Once you’ve identified the resource needs for your strategic delivery, the next thing to plan is how to get there. You’ll already have some ideas drawn from your assessment of who is capable of reaching the requirements. Now it’s time to plan out your next steps in detail.
Work out the investment in education, training, coaching and mentoring for your existing workforce, and the recruitment costs of onboarding new starters who will fill the gaps you have identified.
Spend some time thinking about how you are going to support the transition of formal learning back to the workplace, otherwise your investing in training is going to be lost. This might mean supporting line managers with training about how to support their own team members, or a programme of continuous learning, or introducing a Centre of Excellence, or job families, or whatever you think it will take.
You may need to invest in the infrastructure of learning and support in order to get the long-term skilled resources that are required for strategic delivery. For example, it might be worth investing in project management training for all your delivery teams, especially if you have multiple approaches being used in the organisation. Now could be the perfect time to standardise your internal processes for project delivery and ensure everyone has the same skills and vocabulary. This might require skilling up the PMO staff so that they can support project teams with their new learning.
Your next steps plans could end up being detailed and ideally you’d want to get to the level of understanding the development needs of each individual. You can work on these in conjunction with their line managers and the person themselves.
One final word on preparing training and support plans for your staff to get to them to where they need to be: it is often the case that businesses invest most heavily in their star performers. These people get access to executive mentors or leadership courses, or are moved into management positions and undertake training commensurate with their new roles. Oftentimes it is often the lowest performers who benefit the most from being exposed to structured training and support, especially if they have never had an opportunity for that in the past. Before you write off your bottom-third employees, assess their cultural fit, capacity to learn, teamwork skills and more. With the right investment and support, these could be your future stars, and getting them to that level is potentially no more effort than bringing in skills for outside.
Portfolio level resource planning aligned to strategy projects and resource needs is not a small job. It’s difficult to explain the nuances and the time it can take in this short article, but hopefully you see that there is huge benefit in ensuring that your organisation has the skills required to deliver the strategy you’ve defined. Without the right people doing the delivery, your strategy will never achieve its full potential.