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Developing sustainable project teams

Stephen Burnell
February 29, 2012

The current environment is challenging. Enough said. But no business can afford to simply stop running projects and wait for the storm to pass. On the contrary, businesses can prosper if they select the right projects and have sufficient visibility on the capability alignment of their project delivery teams.

The problem

Why do we only start talking about effective portfolio management and resourcing efficiency when things are going badly? Surely any business committed to sustainable growth and high performing project delivery considers these factors during bullish markets, as well as sluggish times?

Social and historical conditioning tells us to that in order to grow we must make more, build more, employ more and so forth. This has always been our response to demand, and as a result we now have entirely new industries devoted to building a sustainable future for the planet and its people.

This is not to say that people are consciously wasteful but, in the case of project resourcing, when presented with the choice of buying in talent or nurturing it from within, the former can seem a whole lot easier, especially when the money is available.

However, there is something special about this downturn. When major European nations default on their debts, public sector workers start losing their jobs, and seemingly bulletproof housing investments get the wobbles, people take notice. The current market volatility is forcing companies and governments alike to take stock of the resources currently available and use them and nurture them more effectively.

Poor analytics

How many organisations know enough about their project requirements and people capability to make truly informed resourcing decisions?

As an example, how many organisations have been guilty of going to market for a project resource, when the (almost) perfect internal candidate is sitting idle on a different floor? In fact, did they truly understand what the ideal candidate looked like before they went to market in the first place, other than gut feel?

And how many companies shed good people the last time that things got wobbly, without really considering how they would deliver the remaining projects in their portfolio, or how they would support growth when things picked up?

Lack of information can and does lead to short-sighted decisions.

The key to success

Successful organisations will invest in gaining a structured, enterprise view on:

  • How the projects in their portfolios are categorised;
  • Which specific competencies (behavioural and technical) are required for superior delivery of these projects; and
  • What project delivery resources they have, including a detailed view on their level of capability (behavioural and technical).

Organisations that invest in securing this centralised, sophisticated view on project capability will be far better equipped to make strategic project resourcing decisions, and build sustainable, flexible, high performing project delivery teams that meet the current and future needs of the business.

Those that simply put bums on seats, good luck.

Stephen Burnell
Stephen Burnell is the managing director of Touchstone Projects, a project management capability consulting company that integrates behavioural science with established project methodology to create a suite of tools to lift project delivery capability. He has international experience in talent management, and has consulted to some of Australia's leading organisations on their approach to the assessment, selection and development of their people.
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