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How To Avoid Project Conflicts By Managing Resources Better

By 02/03/2017 No Comments

Conflict is inevitable in project management. More so – it’s an inevitability of being human! Spending your days resolving conflict after conflict is tedious, but it’s part of the struggle of being a project manager. If you want your project to be successful – and let’s face it, we all do – you need to minimize conflict from project onset, and utilize the best conflict resolution strategies.

Believe it or not, resource management can make or break your project. Ever-changing goal posts and teams missing deadlines are common complaints of project managers everywhere. But the effective allocation, management, and distribution of resources can make these all-too-common conflicts more easily resolved or avoided altogether.

Ensuring you have the right amount of resources for your project to be successful – without impeding on other areas of the business – makes everyone happy. Doing so, however, is easier said than done.

Be clear about the value your project adds

Taking up valuable resources without clearly articulating why can lead to a workplace culture that resents the drain your project has on the company. It’s important to demonstrate the value that your project adds so that internal teams better understand why you’re taking certain resources and what the pay-off is in the long run.

Resources are always in high demand and short supply, so be considerate of the fact that the talent, finances and materials your project requires could leave another team feeling stretched thin and underappreciated. When your project is viewed as a drain on resources with little or no pay-off, tensions can rise. It’s situations like this that increase the likelihood of and escalate the nature of conflicts, all of which can be detrimental to the success of your project.

A little bit of internal marketing can go a long way. You don’t have to be heavy-handed, but articulating the purpose of your project, the time it’s expected to take and how many resources it will need can leave everyone feeling a little more prepared and patient.

Allocate the right resources for your project

Projects are temporary by nature. Getting businesses to contribute their talent can be tricky – and getting budget for the right contractors can be even more challenging. Deciding how to approach human resource allocation and management early is paramount.

If your company is a big firm with the luxury of moving staff around, utilising its existing resources is usually best. Existing employees are already familiar with company processes and can likely hit the ground running when joining your project team. Just make sure that your allocation of resources isn’t stretching your team too thin. Additional contractors can help make workloads more manageable.

On the flip side, contractors can fare well if your business isn’t able to relocate team members for a period of time. Using your financial resources to get the right talent from day one could mean avoiding internal conflict over team members down the line.

Outline resource needs and purpose

Having a guide for which resources you need is a great goal to work towards. While you may not get all the resources you need (hey – we can dream!), having a clear outline of exactly what your project requires can help get all stakeholders on the same page early on. It also means that you can provide a reasoned rationale behind why you need the resources you need, which reduces the likelihood of them coming under dispute.

In addition to providing an outline of the resources that are needed, you should also attribute clear responsibility for these resources to your internal teams, including other project managers and stakeholders. That way your entire team will understand the value of their resources and manage them more effectively.

Make allocation of responsibility clear and try to get everyone to sign off on it early on. That way, you have something to back yourself with and use to hold people accountable. Everyone will have a clear understanding of their role and so conflicts arising from misunderstandings can be avoided. Plus, it makes it easier to see when people aren’t managing their resources effectively, as you can pin-point who hasn’t fulfilled their part of the bargain and resolve those issues early.

Prepare for resource competition

Part of managing a project is being realistic. And let’s face it, resource competition is rife in organisations. While you can aim to keep your resources to yourself, failing to plan is often planning to fail when it comes to project management. Having a contingency plan for not being able to get (or hold onto) the resources you need is crucial.

Part of this process is about keeping stakeholders accountable to their use of resources. Make the impact of not sharing resources clearly known and owned. Write down a contingency plan and make it readily available to your team. Your contingency plan should include the steps taken to resolve disputes over resources that may arise, such as when a deadline is missed and another team is stretched thin. Create a set of action procedures and get stakeholders to sign off on them before conflict arises. It may seem like a lot of legwork upfront, but it pays off tenfold in the long run.

Also, don’t be selfish. Conflict requires a give-and-take. Sometimes things go wrong and you’ll be short-resourced for a period. Finding ways to prevent this from happening is ideal, but you also need to be understanding of other teams. Compromise is necessary to finding win-win solutions (or at least not lose-lose).

Invest in resource management software

Implementing these strategies is challenging enough – doing it while keeping your eye on competing projects, divas, wildcard stakeholders and clients is overwhelming. When you have to factor in sick leave and vacations as well, you could end up throwing in the towel. That’s why human resource management programs exist.

Getting buy-in from your company can be challenging (you mean you want all those resources AND new software tools?) but it can save you a real pain in the neck. If you have a small team, resource management software might not be so essential, but it can be make or break when it comes to bigger projects. (Take a look at some of the best resource management software programs on the market.)

If you make the case for resource management software and still can’t wrangle it, find a process and stick to it. Resource management spreadsheets can be a real beast, but if it’s all you’ve got – commit to it. Half-hearted management processes can make conflict resolution a real mess later down the line. Having one, central location where all information on resources is kept means that you never lose track of your resources. That makes it easier back yourself when potential conflicts over resource allocations arise, as well as hold the responsible people accountable.

Develop your skills and resource strategies

At the end of the day, we never stop learning. Online study is a great way to further develop your project management skills and resource management strategies without taking time away from work. Southern Cross University Online offers a Master of Project Management, which is designed to not only build your skills as a project manager, but also develop the leadership skills required to excel. Because, at the end of the day, great resource management requires more than just management skills, it also requires leadership.

Work towards developing your own high-level project management skills and resource strategies with an online Master of Project Management from Southern Cross University. To learn more about online study options, visit the SCU Online website.

Ben Aston

Ben Aston

I’m Ben Aston, a digital project manager. I've been in the industry for more than 10 years working in the UK at London’s top digital agencies including Dare, Wunderman, Lowe and DDB. I’ve delivered everything from video virals to CMS’, flash games to banner ads and eCRM to eCommerce sites. I’ve been fortunate enough to work across a wide range of great clients; automotive brands including Land Rover, Volkswagen and Honda; Utility brands including BT, British Gas and Exxon, FMCG brands such as Unilever, and consumer electronics brands including Sony.

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