Projects are driven by the people involved -- even the best laid plans will fail if the people assigned are not empowered to perform or properly tasked to get the job done. How can you know when your project team is ready - not just to begin, but also to succeed? Read on for more.
One of the most important tasks for any project manager is to ensure that a project is properly staffed, and that the project team has all the resources necessary to deliver success. In order to properly assess project team readiness, you must first clear two basic assumptions:
- Assumption #1- The project has been sufficiently defined so that performing organization capabilities can be evaluated considering project scope and actual work effort requirements, goals and objectives. (Also Read: Understanding Project Definition)
- Assumption #2 - The project work effort has been broken down into manageable components (phases, tasks, activities, dependencies and milestones) so that work assignments and scheduling commitments can be clearly evaluated against staffing capabilities. (Also Read: Planning Concepts for the Project Work Breakdown Structure)
The 12 Questions of Project Team Readiness
Having cleared the two (2) hurdles listed above, the task of assessing “team readiness” can begin. This evaluation is achieved using a series of twelve (12) primary questions, designed to measure “readiness” based on resource levels, availability, skills, dependencies, contingencies, training and related variables. The whole point of this exercise is to attempt to quantify readiness in practical terms, make recommendations and determine associated risks.
- Are you sufficiently staffed to complete this project in accordance with the schedule and completion deadline?
- Does the project team have the necessary skills (technical, management and administrative) to complete the project as required?
- If not, has training been made available as needed?
- Are you dependent on a single individual for a specific skill or expertise?
- If so, do you have a staffing contingency plan to account for staff changes mid-project?
- Is the project team organized for optimum productivity?
- Have roles and responsibilities been clearly defined and communicated?
- Has sufficient time been allocated in the project schedule to account for vacation time, sick time, holidays, and to avoid staff burn-out?
- Does the team have a positive attitude towards the project?
- Are you sufficiently aware of all risks to team performance (internal conflicts, politics, conflicting agendas and priorities, etc.)?
- Have you obtained resource commitments from all supporting organizational units, and/or external service providers needed to properly complete the project?
- As the project manager, do you have all the necessary authority to assign project resources and deal with performance issues?
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Ready or Not? Here We Go…..
Having completed this 12 point assessment you will now be in a better position to answer the basic readiness question. If you determine that readiness is “sufficient”, you are good to go. But what if you have a readiness problem? Project cancellation or postponement may not be an option. In this case, it’s time to turn to some mitigating techniques:
- Revise project plans and strategies to compensate for any problems or deficiencies.
- Reduce or revise the scope of the project to allow for successful completion within resource constraints.
- Change the project schedule to suit resource availability.
- Structure the project into manageable phases with smaller deliverables, and, frequent milestones so that project progress can be closely monitored.
- Clearly identify staffing constraints and issues as project risks, putting all parties on notice of the risks involved.
- Hire temporary resources or external consultants to assist in targeted project activities, or to backfill daily operational activities.
- Look to other parts of the organization for project assistance, perhaps in remote office locations.
The key to evaluating “team readiness” is the old adage – “knowledge is king (and also power)”. You can’t take steps to fill readiness gaps if you don’t know that a gap exists. Readiness evaluations should take place at the start of any project, and also as the project unfolds, incorporating changes and real-time circumstances into the evaluation process.
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