Topic 6: Project human resource management

Project human resource (HR) management—an overview

Human resource (HR) management within a project is the crucial success factor—nothing will ever be designed, built, implemented or operated without people. Because projects do something unique, project team members do not necessarily know what to do next. They need to be told the project plan. The majority of project HR tools are focused on ensuring that each project team member knows what is required of them.

The PMBOK Guide process related to project human resource management comprises:
* develop human resource plan
* acquire project team
* develop project team
* manage project team.

Project HR management tools and techniques

A project manager is the project team leader. Project managers need skills in leading, motivating and coordinating the team to reach its goal.

Leadership vs management characteristics

A leader:
Sets the challenge
Sees the need to change direction or
Does the right things
Long-term focus
People orientated
Builds accountability within team
Challenges the status quo
Asks 'why?'

A manager:
Meets the challenge
Implements change
Does things right
Manages bottom line
Focuses on short/medium term
Concerned about systems and structures
Builds accountability through control and
Works within the status quo
Asks 'how?' and 'when?'

Adapted from Bennis 1993 & Nanus 1995

There are three leadership styles that a project manager can adopt [Burke (2007: 331) provides variations or 'shades' of these styles.]:
1. authoritative—the project manager 'boss' setting all agendas and making all the decisions with little or no input from the project team
2. participative—the project team and the project manager work together to resolve issues and make decisions
3. laissez faire—the project manager leaves the project team to resolve issues and make decisions as best it can, the team can 'do its own thing'.

Leadership is situational and involves three elements: (a) the leader, (b) the project team, and (c)
the situation. This implies that leadership is a continuum and a project manager needs to apply their judgement in flexibly adopting a leadership style that is appropriate to situation.

All leaders need to be effective communicators and project managers are no exception. In fact, because project team members can be drawn from different technical and/or professional backgrounds, the demands on project managers' communication skills may be even greater than those placed on other managers.

In a project that is a temporary endeavour, project managers must be able to organise, lead and motivate team members to achieve high levels of performance from the word go. They will sometimes need to direct team members and sometimes take direction from subject matter experts who are lower in the organisational structure.

Management theory advises managers to carefully, slowly and thoroughly resolve conflict among team members to ensure that no 'residual issues' remain to affect the team's performance. However, due to the shorter life span of projects, there is often not enough time or funding to step carefully through a process to ensure that all parties can work well together in years to come. Project managers tend to resolve conflicts quicker, but less thoroughly, than their counterparts in ongoing operations.

The Project Management Institute expects project managers to know six key techniques of resolving conflict. These techniques were published by Thamhain and Wilemon in 1975.

1. confrontation/problem solving
2. compromising
3. smoothing/accommodating
4. forcing
5. withdrawing/avoiding
6. collaborating

Project managers need to understand that teams have a life cycle that can affect their performance (Tuckman 1965). Knowing at what stage a team is at in their life cycle enables a project manager to appropriately respond and promote team performance. According to Tuckman's research, a project team will go through four recognisable stages of forming, storming, norming, and performing. Furthermore, a fifth and final stage of adjourning or mourning is sometimes added to Tuckman's stages. It is argued that a team that fails to go through a stage, is merely locked into that stage.

Most organisations are structured along functional lines with various middle level managers having titles that reflect the functions of their departments. Such organisations tend to get their revenue through one sales department, with the rest of the departments making the products that are supplied through the sales department or channel. In a functional organisation, projects will typically be sponsored and delivered internally to each department.

The 'project-ised' organisation there will be some functional departments within this organisation, these will be quite small and undertake a number of non-revenue earning functions. The revenue will be gained by the completion of projects to meet external customers' demands. In a project-ised organisation, staff report to their project manager for the duration of their project assignment. In a fully project-ised organisation, the vast bulk of the staff is hired only for the duration of the project as fixed term hires or as contractors.

A matrix structure incorporates elements of both the pure functional organisation and the pure project-ised organisation. Staff will have their career in a functional department, but will spend as much time as possible assigned to a project and reporting to a project manager. he project manager will be responsible for delivering the project to achieve revenue, profit and customer satisfaction. The functional departmental head will be responsible for how certain work is performed (the processes) and keeping the right number of trained staff to resource the projects, while not having too many people unassigned (on the bench) who are not earning revenue. In the matrix organisation, the project manager and the functional department manager share responsibilities and share power.

The matrix organisation is also subdivided into strong matrix, weak matrix and balanced matrix types. Effectively these terms describe the power of the project manager with respect to the functional managers.

It is difficult to think of an organisation without thinking of its structure chart. This is the structural chart that many people are used to seeing. In project circles this is generally referred to as the organisational breakdown structure (OBS). Modern organisations have more connections between employees than this simple 'up-and-down' relationship. On a project, where there can be a range of deliverables, skills, functions and sub-teams, the project manager at the top may have little or no knowledge of how to do the work of the person at the bottom. On a project such hierarchical structures effectively means that the project manager allocates work and coordinates project reporting.

The traditional and static view of the hierarchy actually means very little on a project and it does not provide much value. As it is traditional, many stakeholders from within the organisation and the project team members themselves expect that an OBS will be used.

The responsibility assignment matrix (RAM) is a very powerful diagram that a project manager can produce. This diagram simply maps out project activities and links them to who the project manager has assigned to be responsible for achieving the expected outcome.

While the RAM helps the project manager to allocate activities, there are more roles to be performed on most activities than just those associated with doing the work. The project manager can create a RACI chart that attempts to show these additional roles and responsibilities. The original title, RACI, was intended to show who was:

Responsible—the person doing the work
Accountable—the person who is held to account if the work is wrong, normally the person in charge
Consulted—normally a specialist who provides advice or mentoring with two way communications
Informed—someone who needs to be aware of progress and outcomes via generally one-way communications, e.g. the finance department that needs to know when payments are to be made.

Typical variations include:
RASIC and RASCI, where the S stands for support or signature
RACIO or CAIRO where the O specifically omits someone from any involvement in the project
RASCI-VS where the V stands for verifies, the first S stands for support and the second S stands for signature (i.e. approves the output).

In very large projects:
* there is a project director
* the project director will be supported by a project office that contains several project managers who are not working in that role, but are overseeing the coordination of major project functions, e.g. scheduling, change, etc.
* the project director may have several project managers reporting to them and is responsible for various subprojects or major elements of the overarching project
* the project director may have several project department managers running functional teams, e.g., architecture, testing, etc.
there is a range of cost account managers who may be project or department managers or people within their teams and responsible for high-level webs elements
* the project and department managers may or may not have several team leaders who are responsible for small teams reporting to them
* the workers and/or staff who work for the project managers, department managers and team leaders or in some cases may be a project workers as well.

Project management is often a task of trading off one priority or constraint against another and to provide a solution. Assigning human resources requires a project manager to match roles with the appropriate resources (personnel), so that the schedule and costs are kept to the minimum. Resource assignment is one of the arts of project management and not a simple function of allocating names against activities. If too many people are on a project, then the cost of assigned, but non-productive people (referred to as a standing army) will be too high. Resource levelling involves ensuring that the amount of work required for any resource is approximately what that resource can achieve.

Project HR management artefacts

The key inputs to managing human resources are:
* activity resource requirements (see the estimation section in Project time management)
* enterprise environmental factors (see Project integration management)
* organisational process assets (see Project integration management)
* the project management plan (see Project integration management).

The key outputs include:
* the human resource (HR) plan
* project staff assignments. The list of activities and who is assigned to perform what role in each activity is often a separate sub-document in an HR plan as it is more likely to be changed more often.
* resource calendars
* team performance assessments
* project management plan updates
* enterprise environmental factors updates
* organisational process assets updates
* change requests.

Project HR management process

The process for HR management comprises:
* develop human resource plan
* acquire project team
* develop project team
* manage project team.

The outcome of identifying all project roles, determining the skill sets required and how these resources will be obtained is documented in the HR plan and (where used) its subservient staffing management plan. The activity requires information on the resource estimates for each activity, as well as the processes and existing data for performing HR-related activities within the project's governing organisation.

Acquiring a project team is the activity of determining the resource levels required, negotiating the supply of the correct number of resources within suitable timeframes and updating the project management plan (including the schedule) as a result of the outcomes of these negotiations.

Developing a project team contains two distinct activities: undertake specialist training and undertake team building. Specialist training is used only for project-related tools and techniques that are new to the project team. Members of a project may or may not have previously worked together. As such, team building activities should be part of the forming stage we discussed earlier.

Managing the project team is the collection of activities associated with ensuring project staff remains motivated, aware of what is expected of them and able to do what is expected of them. As team members are also likely to have permanent roles within their respective organisational centres, the activity may also include a need to provide team support back into these organisational centres to ensure that team members remain available and are not assigned to competing projects.