Business Inquiry:

Continuity of Key Resources for Effective Project Management

Shailesh Mirkar (Vice President - Operations)
HIGHLIGHTS

Here’s the million-dollar question related to successful project management. How important is it to maintain continuity of key resources during the project life cycle?

More often than not, our customers (developers) rightfully seek assurance from service providers about ensuring continuity of resources. Many project management consulting (PMC) organizations which are heavily dependent on human resources grapple with this pertinent requirement. Additionally, retention of competent resources and subject matter experts is one of the biggest challenges in any company. PMC organizations, therefore, ought to employ innovative means to address this issue for their sustainability.

However, unilateral reduction of attrition risk by the project management consultant does not ensure successful execution of the project. Continuity of key resources within all stakeholder teams, especially the developer’s team is critical for effective project delivery. Unfortunately, there are hardly any statistics or research papers available which deal with the importance of continuity of developers’ key resources on their project.

On several occasions, my project teams have had to face challenges in terms of frequently changing expectations due to a change of guard within the developer’s team, during the course of a project. Departure of key resources from developer’s team not only creates anxiety amongst all staff but also alters overall communication, comfort, behavior and culture of the teams working on the project.  We can appreciate that changes – whether uncontrollable or deliberately opted for, for the betterment of the project – are inevitable in any project. However, this change wherein key resources are replaced on a project almost always create unnecessary friction amongst all stakeholders and result into an unhealthy project environment.

A project can be defined in many ways, but the most striking and adoptable meaning of project is “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a UNIQUE product or service”. Unique products cannot be executed by any unplanned mix of people; it requires energetic endeavors and efforts from UNIQUE human resources who are competent to work together towards delivery of the undertaken project.

With the advent of management theories and development of processes driven organizations, there would be contrasting opinions about the dispensability of key resources or for that matter any resources.  Human resource management is a complex and integral part of project management. Human resources are so dynamic and unpredictable in nature that no organization can guarantee continuity of resources in today’s fast and competitive scenario. However, if all stakeholders attempt to ensure continuity of their key resources throughout the project life cycle, it shall not only ensure reduction in unnecessary friction amongst the teams but also result into achieving project deliverables efficiently.

I am categorizing “Human Resources” working on projects into the following and shall be assessing our experience at GEM Engserv in relation to each of these.

We recently experienced an unfortunate incident which left us in shock, as we lost one of the pillars of our Corporate Leadership last year. This did indeed ruffle feathers, leaving many in doubt regarding the organization’s ability to stay on course, towards the dream of becoming the consultant of choice in the engineering and construction management domain. However, the culture that has been built over the past decade within the organization enabled and empowered several team-members (among the senior leadership as well as grassroot performers) to step up in their role and share the burden of ensuring continuity on projects.

Adding to this is the fact that the functional leadership within the organization has been very stable, again, attributed to the culture of the organization. It is a testament to the will of all team-members to stick together in the face of hardship (over several years) that has ensured that none of the delivery leads have changed over the past decade – this means that the business leadership has not changed over the past 10 years. A number of clients are amazed by this feat and are, in turn, assured of the stability that the organization offers when it comes to service delivery.

The story takes a very different course in terms of individual projects; with us stepping in on undelivered, incomplete projects where we have had to setup teams to continue from where our predecessors have left off. This is where we have seen the most friction and disruption being caused by a complete overhaul of the model of working. We have had, on a number of occasions, to re-evaluate and re-engineer new ways of working with the developer’s team in the attempt to deliver the project on time, within budget and with the desired level of quality. It has not been easy, but it is also immensely satisfying that these challenges have brought forth the very best in the people that we have taken on board and deployed on the project.

Coming lastly to attrition or movement of key individuals involved on projects; this is an area so ever-evolving and dynamic that we, like everyone in the industry, can never satisfactorily claim to have come out victorious. Once again, this is not limited to changes within our PMC organization but also the key resources of all stakeholders, whether they are the developer, contractor, design consultant or even material suppliers. At the end of the day, project management is a discipline that is heavily dependent on people. With each change in the team, we have had to re-establish existing relationships, acknowledge previously unwritten agreements or commitments, deal with specific situations that led to specific decisions in the past and handle varying styles of management since these are all very people dependent. While we have failed (read learnt) on several occasions, it has also driven me to place “man” at its rightful top spot in the parameters of project management, among material, machinery and even money!

Any thoughts, tips or advice on ensuring continuity of project based resources are welcome.

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