The Organizational Staffing Process

Staffing the project organization can become a long and tedious effort, especially on large and complex engineering projects. Three major questions must be answered:

• What people resources are required?

• Where will the people come from?

• What type of project organizational structure will be best?

To determine the people resources required, the types of individuals (possibly job descriptions) must be decided on, as well as how many individuals from each job category are necessary and when these individuals will be needed.

Consider the following situation: As a project manager, you have an activity that requires three separate tasks, all performed within the same line organization. The line manager promises you the best available resources right now for the first task but cannot make any commitments beyond that. The line manager may have only below-average workers available for the second and third tasks. However, the line manager is willing to make a deal with you. He can give you an employee who can do the work but will only give an average performance. If you accept the average employee, the line manager will guarantee that the employee will be available to you for all three tasks. How important is continuity to you? There is no clearly definable answer to this question. Some people will always want the best resources and are willing to fight for them, whereas others prefer continuity and dislike seeing new people coming and going. The author prefers continuity, provided that the assigned employee has the ability to do the up-front planning needed during the first task. The danger in selecting the best employee is that a higher-priority project may come along, and you will lose the employee; or if the employee is an exceptional worker, he may simply be promoted off your project.

Sometimes, a project manager may have to make concessions to get the right people. For example, during the seventh, eighth, and ninth months of your project you need two individuals with special qualifications. The functional manager says that they will be available two months earlier, and that if you don't pick them up then, there will be no guarantee of their availability during the seventh month. Obviously, the line manager is pressuring you, and you may have to give in. There is also the situation in which the line manager says that he'll have to borrow people from another department in order to fulfill his commitments for your project. You may have to live with this situation, but be very careful— these employees will be working at a low level on the learning curve, and overtime will not necessarily resolve the problem. You must expect mistakes here.

Line managers often place new employees on projects so they can be upgraded. Project managers often resent this and immediately go to top management for help. If a line manager says that he can do the work with lower-level people, then the project manager must believe the line manager. After all, the line manager, not the assigned employees, makes the commitment to do the work, and it is the line manager's neck that is stuck out.

Mutual trust between project and line managers is crucial, especially during staffing sessions. Once a project manager has developed a good working relationship with employees, the project manager would like to keep those individuals assigned to his activities. There is nothing wrong with a project manager requesting the same administrative and/or technical staff as before. Line managers realize this and usually agree to it.

There must also be mutual trust between the project managers themselves. Project managers must work as a team, recognize each other's needs, and be willing to make decisions that are in the best interest of the company.

Once the resources are defined, the next question must be whether staffing will be from within the existing organization or from outside sources, such as new hires or consultants. Outside consultants are advisable if, and only if, internal manpower resources are being fully utilized on other programs, or if the company does not possess the required project skills. The answer to this question will indicate which organizational form is best for achievement of the objectives. The form might be a matrix, product, or staff project management structure.

Not all companies permit a variety of project organizational forms to exist within the main company structure. Those that do, however, consider the basic questions of classical management before making a decision. These include:

• How is labor specialized?

• What should the span of management be?

• How much planning is required?

• Are authority relationships delegated and understood?

• Are there established performance standards?

• What is the rate of change of the job requirements?

• Should we have a horizontal or vertical organization?

• What are the economics?

• What are the morale implications?

• Do we need a unity-of-command position?

As in any organization, the subordinates can make the superior look good in the performance of his duties. Unfortunately, the project environment is symbolized by temporary assignments in which the main effort put forth by the project manager is to motivate his (temporary) subordinates toward project dedication and to make them fully understand that:

• Teamwork is vital for success.

• Esprit de corps contributes to success.

• Conflicts can occur between project and functional tiers.

• Communication is essential for success.

• Conflicting orders may be given by the:

• Project manager

• Functional manager

• Upper-level manager

• Unsuccessful performance may result in transfer or dismissal from the project as well as disciplinary action.

Earlier we stated that a project operates as a separate entity but remains attached to the company through company administration policies and procedures. Although project managers can establish their own policies, procedures, and rules, the criteria for promotion must be based on company standards. Project managers should be careful about making commitments they can't keep. After unkept promises on previous projects, a project manager will find it very difficult to get top-quality personnel to volunteer for another project. Even if top management orders key individuals to be assigned to his project, they will always be skeptical about any promises that he may make.

Selecting the project manager is only one-third of the staffing problem. The next step, selecting the project office personnel and team members, can be a time-consuming chore. The project office consists of personnel who are usually assigned as full-time members of the project. The evaluation process should include active project team members, functional team members available for promotion or transfer, and outside applicants.

Upon completion of the evaluation process, the project manager meets with upper-level management. This coordination is required to assure that:

• All assignments fall within current policies on rank, salary, and promotion.

• The individuals selected can work well with both the project manager (formal reporting) and upper-level management (informal reporting).

• The individuals selected have good working relationships with the functional personnel.

Good project office personnel usually have experience with several types of projects and are self-disciplined.

The third and final step in the staffing of the project office is a meeting between the project manager, upper-level management, and the project manager on whose project the requested individuals are currently assigned. Project managers are very reluctant to give up qualified personnel to other projects, but unfortunately, this procedure is a way of life in a project environment. Upper-level management attends these meetings to show all negotiating parties that top management is concerned with maintaining the best possible mix of individuals from available resources and to help resolve staffing conflicts. Staffing from within is a negotiation process in which upper-level management establishes the ground rules and priorities.

The selected individuals are then notified of the anticipated change and asked their opinions. If individuals have strong resentment to being transferred or reassigned, alternate personnel may be selected to avoid potential problems.

Figure 4-5 shows the typical staffing pattern as a function of time. There is a manpower buildup in the early phases and a manpower decline in the later stages. This means that the project manager should bring people on board as needed and release them as early as possible.

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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