Are you tired of struggling with the many-headed monster otherwise known as resource capacity planning? It could be time to start afresh and abandon the practices that have led to inefficiency. This is really a matter of embracing common sense and here are my 11 top tips for maximising resources.
1. Be sure you have adequate resources for your initiatives, and that you have at least a reasonable chance of success. Focus them on the most important initiatives without abandoning your awareness of other activities. This may mean making a trade-off or seeking alternate staffing strategies. Remember, if it doesn’t work on paper, it won’t work in real life. This is probably the most common sense tip of all, but the least practiced.
2. Be Realistic. Most organisations are operating with blinders on when it comes to resource availability. Make a point to look at the true picture of capacity (i.e. the available resource hours after all the administration, time-off, and estimated unplanned or support work is considered). Likewise with demand; look at the full spectrum of demand that’s competing for your resources’ time, not just major projects and programmes. Then you won’t be planning to infinite capacity, as is so often the case.
3. Institute Demand Management. Capacity planning involves balancing capacity with demand. Thus, it is impossible to manage capacity without understanding, and trying to manage, your demand. Institute a demand management process that includes filtering out wasteful, redundant, or low value efforts. It should also include a prioritisation and scoring mechanism to assist with resource conflicts and allows trade-offs to be made if necessary.
4. Spring Cleaning for Your Processes. Bloated processes destroy productivity. Bring all the relevant teams in your process together in a room, and map out your end-to-end implementation process on the wall. Any redundancies or inefficiencies should become apparent. Try to replace excess approval mechanisms with checklists where appropriate. Be open to suggestions, and be willing to challenge the necessity of each step and each data element.
5. Involve Middle Management. Since an organisation is, in essence, an ecosystem, resource capacity planning should not be a singular activity done by an individual group or person, though they can facilitate the effort. It takes the involvement of middle management, since they’re the ones who know their resources best.
6. Manage by Programme, not by Department. Departmental focus is one of the primary causes of “silo thinking” in organisations. Why not plan and manage resources by programme instead? Of course, the departments may source the programme, and they may have their own operational and administrative needs, but the high-value activity in an organisation generally occurs in discretionary programmes and projects that require a mix of diverse resources to work together. Managing by programme can break down silos and better align resources with value delivery. And guess what? Almost anything can be made part of a programme.
7. Adopt Product-Based Planning. Your employees are working towards an end goal, whether it’s a consumer product, a new service for external customers, an internal change, or some other purpose. Manage with the end in mind. This means aligning projects and other work with the products, services, or other outcomes that it is meant to support. For products, this might mean looking at a release roadmap that integrates product releases and the supporting projects in play. This approach gives more visibility to milestones, and creates a customer and market-driven culture.
8. Watch Your Constraints. Generally, 80% of your discretionary work is constrained by 20% of your resources. These constrained resources become the bottlenecks in your workflow. Make a point of identifying the key resources everyone is competing for, and pay special attention to them. Then, schedule projects around their availability, stagger project phases, or consider alternate sourcing strategies.
9. Resources are People, Too. Planning the availability and throughput of human beings is different to planning equipment capacity on a shop floor. Your resources each have individual strengths, work preferences, skills, and motivators. Get to know the people, not just the resources. Make sure your teams have an appropriate mix of goal-focused and people-focused individuals. Be sure people are aligned with their natural strengths. And address the factors that impact morale, such as communication, middle management attitudes, work environment, and organisational policies.
10. Integrate via Portfolios. With your personal finances, portfolios serve to align your investments with your goals. It is the same in business, but on a grander scale. Portfolios can be used to align all the components in your delivery chain, including ideas, strategies, products, services, projects, resources, software application, and other assets. This way, when change happens – and it will – it’s easier to see the impact in a holistic fashion. It’s also easier to set and adjust to new strategies.
11. Seek Effective Leaders. Throughout history, countless business projects and military campaigns have failed because of a lack of effective leaders. Either there weren’t enough good ones to go around, succession planning was inefficient or nonexistent, or the leaders were mismatched to the culture of the organisation. Make an effort to identify, develop, or acquire effective leaders. But resist the temptation to promote high performing “doers” to a leadership position solely based on their functional performance. Leadership is a unique skill comprising a rare combination of talents, ineffective leadership is a prime barrier to resource productivity.
So there you have it: 11 (Un)Common Sense Resource Planning Tips. By adopting some, or all of these practices you will be able to make a quantum leap in your resource management capabilities.