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Monday, July 4, 2011

Chapter 64:Acquiring a Project Team

The importance of the team members who will be working on the project cannot be explained enough. Simply put, the success of your whole project rests heavily on the capabilities and performance of these people and it is imperative that you spend your best effort in hiring or acquiring the best people for your team.

Acquiring a Project Team

The project work will be executed by the project team, and therefore the role of the team in the success of the project is crucial. So, it is critical to acquire the right project team for your project. You accomplish this through the Acquire Project Team process. This process is explained in the picture below:

Input to Acquiring the Project Team

The inputs that are used for this Acquiring the Project Team process are:
Human resource plan - You need this document because acquiring the project team is one of several processes that implement the human resource plan. It has useful items relevant to acquiring the project team, such as a list of roles and responsibilities required for the project, project organizational charts, and a staffing management plan.
Roles and responsibilities - Roles with specific responsibilities are defined in the human resource planning process based on the project work that needs to be performed. These roles will be the guide to finding suitable candidates for the project team, because the team members will play these roles.
Project organizational chart - This chart gives you a quick overview of the number of team members needed and their relationships to each other.
Staffing management plan - A staffing management plan is an important input item to acquiring the project team because it provides detailed information about the roles that need to be filled, such as the start and end dates for a role. This information is necessary to match the candidates with the roles.

In all practical purposes, you may not be able to hire the best people for your team. In many organizations, there is a staffing manager who assigns people to the various open projects based on the availability in the organizations staff pool who are unallocated. In such a case, it is upto you to choose people who fit the roles that you expect as closely as possible. You cant just accept any random individual assigned to you by the staffing manager. But, remember that being on the wrong side of the staffing manager can have bad repercussions on the future staffing options for your team. So whenever you are refuting the allocation done by the staffing manager, make sure you go with hard facts that outline why you cant accept this individual and not just a one liner that says “I need a better person”.

Enterprise environmental factors - The enterprise environmental factors are important in obtaining project team members because the team members can come from various sources inside and outside the performing organization. These factors include organizational structure, administrative policies of your organization regarding outsourcing, availability of team members within the performing organization, and human resource information in the performing organization. Read through the previous paragraph. This is exactly what I was talking about. To determine who will be the best team, you need to do your homework, which includes finding out the availability and abilities of the candidate team members. When you do have an influence on making staff assignments, you should consider the following characteristics:
Availability - It is important to know whether and when the candidate is available before you attempt to obtain that member.
Competency - Does the candidate have the skills needed to complete the schedule activities?
Experience - Has the candidate performed similar work well in the past?
Interests - What is the candidate’s interest level in this project and in the work that will be assigned to him or her?
Cost - What is the cost attached to each candidate in terms of pay? This is even more important if the member is a contractor.
Based on this information, build your dream team on paper and attempt to obtain that team. If the team is spread out over different departments and hence the team members are under the control of different functional managers, plan who you will ask for from each functional manager. To make a request, meet with the manager and ask for your most wanted team member first, even though it is very unlikely that you will get everyone you ask for. Before meeting the functional managers, you need to prioritize your staffing needs. The most complex activities and the activities on critical paths should get special attention, and you should make sure these activities have the best members because they have the highest risk potential. Having assigned staff to these activities first, you have more flexibility to agree to a different resource assigned to activities that are less complex and have a non-zero float time. Even though you want to negotiate for the best team, keep a backup plan; that is, if you don’t get the best member, try to get the second best member, and so on.

In one of the large IT companies that I worked for in India, we had a Resource Manager who handled the allocation of resources who are on bench to prospective projects. When we are assigned a new project, we usually get a list from the Resource Manager and then work our way through the list to identify the best fit for our role. The problem was that, apart from me, other managers too were looking for prospective candidates and hence my rapport with the Resource Manager was very useful in trying to grab the best fits before someone else zeroed in on them. As I said before, make sure you are in the good books of the person who handles available staff in your organization. This can help you in many ways to find the best staff for your team. Again I repeat, this is no joke.

Organizational process assets - In the process of acquiring the project team, you should consider the following organizational process assets:
• Guidelines, policies, or procedures governing staff assignments that your organization may have
• Help from the human resources department in recruitment of and orientation for the team members

Tools and Techniques for Acquiring the Project Team

The tools and techniques you will use for acquiring a project team are:
Pre-assignment - In some cases, there will be some staff members already assigned to the project. This can happen, for example, due to the following situations:
• A staff member was promised as part of a specific proposal to compete with another proposal. Acceptance of this proposal automatically affirms that staff-member assignment.
• There is only one person in the organization who has the expertise to perform a specific activity.
• A staff assignment was specified in the project charter.

Negotiation - The project manager and the project management team should effectively negotiate and exert influence in a positive way to obtain the best possible team to complete the project work. The failure to acquire an effective team can result in missed deadlines, cost overrun, poor quality, and eventually a failed project. You will most likely need to negotiate with functional managers for the staff assignments for your project. In these negotiations, you have a two-pronged goal; to obtain the best available person for an activity and to obtain the person for the required timeframe. As described in the previous section, you must do your homework in order to get the best results from the negotiations.

Acquisition - If the performing organization does not have the human resources to fill one or more roles needed to finish the project, the required team member can be obtained from out-side the organization as a contractor, or the corresponding work can be given to a source out-side the performing organization. We will cover more on this aspect when we deal with Procurement Management & Planning.

Virtual teams - The process of working for an organization from outside its physical location is called telecommuting. The Internet (along with other technological advances, such as teleconferencing, cellular phones, and pagers) makes it possible to telecommute from your home in the same city where the organization is or from a location on the other side of the globe with almost the same ease. Teams composed of telecommuters are called virtual teams because the team works together on the same project without holding face-to-face meetings. It is not difficult to find people who have worked on virtual teams and have never seen the other team members face to face. I have worked on several such teams, and I’m sure either you have or you will in the near future. The virtual team format expands the team definition to offer the following benefits:

• People working for the same organization but living in different locations can join the same team.
• A needed expert can join a team even if the expert does not live in the same location as the rest of the team.
• The organization has the option to accommodate employees who can only work from certain locations for a certain period of time.
• Due to the availability of asynchronous communication means, such as e-mail and online bulletin boards, it is possible to form a team of members who have different work hours or shifts.
• Virtual teams eliminate or reduce the need to travel by using means of communication that are abundantly available, such as e-mail, video conferencing, and the World Wide Web. This enables organizations to perform projects that were previously impossible due to the anticipated travel expenses.

Note that because the virtual team members are not at the same location and do not have regular face-to-face meetings, effective communication is that much more important for the success of the project being performed by the virtual team. Therefore, communication management is crucial to the success of virtual teams.

The team you are going to acquire could be a team at one location or a virtual team, and a team member might be from your organization or from outside your organization.

Output of Acquiring the Project Team

The output of this whole process is “The Project Team”. This was a no brainer I guess. But, as a project manager you need to document various other things. Just getting the team isn’t the end of the road. You need to create:
Project staff assignments - This document contains the list of individuals assigned to the project. It can also include memos sent to team members, the project organization chart, and the schedule with the names inserted.
Resource calendars - This document includes the time periods for which each assigned member can work on the project. Possible schedule conflicts, commitments to other projects, and times when a team member is not available can also be recorded.
Updates to the project management plan - As a result of staff assignments, some parts of the project management plan will be modified. For example, the project team is acquired by matching the staffing requirements specified in the staffing management plan to the candidates. You hardly get a perfect match and in most cases you go with the best available match. During the process of acquiring the project team, you might realize that the staffing management plan needs to be updated. Other updates to the staffing management plan might come from the following sources:
o Promotions
o Retirements
o Illnesses
o Performance issues
o Changing workloads

Prev: Big Picture of HR Management

Next: Developing the Team

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