Do you ever hit a pothole or detour sign while driving down a road? Notice how it changes your course and can disrupt your momentum? If resources in an organization are not all aligned with the same vision and strategic goal, it is easy for a detour or pothole to disrupt the path and confuse the direction in which you’re headed. Resource allocation in an organization or PMO acts this way in the most basic form. Portfolio and Project Managers need to have a clear strategic message as to what they’re working towards, so once traffic changes or you have a dead end, you’re able to make diversions together and still head forward on your strategic path to get where you’re going.
The first thing an organization or PMO needs to do to avoid these disruptions is to make sure that project managers and resources working understand what the strategic plan is. You can’t have them working (or driving) with a blind fold on. They need to be given the why and reasoning of their projects. And better yet, how their project fits within all the other projects their organization is working on. From a project portfolio management point of view, there may be an entire value stream that you’re trying to deliver. This could be anything from opening up more stores, designing new products, coming up with better IT strategy… All of these roads and projects that your resources are hoping to deliver on need to be working together to achieve the right level of utilization for the business.
Strategic business goals should be clear and strongly communicated to everybody in the business—especially the drivers of projects and down to the resource level. Beyond that, it’s how Portfolio and Project Managers monitor these things and understand what risks (or detours) are coming along. If there is one, managers need to notify their resources so that as traffic changes, they’re still headed down the same road navigating diversions together.
Now, what happens when you’re faced with the inevitable and your company changes direction? It decides that its’ goals are different, or they’re cost cutting, or a global pandemic hits and you have to re-evaluate everything. In a recent survey by PMI, managers mention that corporate change is one of the top factors in failed projects. So, the real question at stake here is how to navigate potholes, detours, and a complete change in direction, together.
Managers have to start making sure that the resources assigned to projects are lined to the demands that are changing within the organization. This means moving from a project-focused resource management scenario to a strategically focused resource management scenario. When a resource is allocated to a project at only the project level, there isn’t consideration around anything outside of that project, like the big picture or strategic plan. Being reactive is what happens at the project level. When your resource allocation in project management has a more strategic approach, you can anticipate change and detours in the road to better set your organization up for success. If your resource management allocation is centralized, you can make sure that your scenarios include all projects that are related to each other, and you can then ensure that the direction is still clear if something has changed.
The only way to give your team an ‘Agile’ environment is to give them the information the need. Portfolio and Project managers need to be able to understand what’s going on by communication and having the tools in place to give accurate data.