Resources Are People Too

August 1, 2011 | Author: PM Hut | Filed under: People Issues

Resources Are People Too
By Abby Dryer

As a project manager, it can be easy to only think of tasks, milestones, and deliverables. Your Project is more than that, which is why you have a Project Team! Your project team consists of the resources that enable you to mark tasks as complete, reach milestones, and turn in deliverables. But resources are more than that – they are people! In the realm of “work/life balance”, it is important to remember that it’s not always reasonable to take in scope creep and simply assign tasks to the team.

As a leader, it is your responsibility to assist and mentor your resources with their own work/life balance. Before you can do that, you need to understand what kind of resources you have. I’m going to over-simplify a very complex group of people into two groups – the Diver and the Waiter. We each have a bit of both in all of us, but we usually lean further into one or the other.

The Diver

The Divers are very easy to take advantage of as a Project Manager. These are the people who check their email before they get out of bed in the morning, and will work a 24-48 hour shift before admitting that they have too much to do. They take whatever task you give them, promise to have it in the time you specify, and never push back when their workload gets overloaded. These resources depend on you to manage their workload for them, and rely on the fact that you will stop assigning tasks to them when they have reached ‘capacity’. Divers are very susceptible to burnout if not managed carefully.

The Waiter

The Waiters are the ones who don’t look for tasks. They work on only what is assigned to them, and never ask for more. If a project manager assigns a task that is expected to take two weeks, and the resource finishes that task in only one week, they will not mention that the task is ready – they will turn it in at the designated time and basically waste a week of time. These resources are a little bit easier to manage, as long as the project manager is paying attention to what they are working on. A project manager can assign many tasks to these resources, and when the resource feels that they are at capacity, they will tell the project manager that they shouldn’t be assigned anything more until the tasks at hand are completed. As a result, the Waiters aren’t as susceptible to burnout.

The thing to notice about each of these groups is that they are relying on you, the Project Manager, to understand and manage their workloads. As you are the one responsible for the overall project, tasks, timeline and budget, they depend on you to give them what is necessary for the project to succeed. Divers will always assume the “death march” stance, and Waiters will assume the ‘ahead of schedule’ stance until you tell them which stance they should take.

As with everything in Project Management (and in life) communication is the best way to succeed with your team. Maintain open communication with your resources. Make sure you know what they are working on, and how well the time estimates match what you had originally planned. I like to walk around the office and talk to my developers every morning to see how things are progressing. I usually get to them before they are fully focused on their work, and therefore I’m less likely to interrupt a productive stream of consciousness that they needed to complete their work.

On paper, Status Meetings would be the best time and place to have these sorts of conversations, but many resources don’t want to speak up in Status Meetings, and are much better at a one-on-one conversation where their workload is the focus of the conversation. They are more likely to open up and let you know if they are overloaded (and therefore at risk of burnout) or if they are simply waiting for you to notice that they’ve been playing on facebook for the last day and a half.

If you find that you have a Diver and a Waiter on your team with similar skills, you can re-shuffle the tasks right then and there -solving the problem, and increasing team productivity before you finish your morning coffee!

Remember, resources are people. People like to feel special. Take the time out of your day to treat them like people, not resources, and you will have a happier, more productive, cohesive team – working on a more successful project!

Abby Dryer, PMP is a Chicago-based Project Manager in the IT/Software Development industry. She focuses much of her energy on team-building and morale – as a cohesive team with high morale can be a determining factor in the success or failure of a project. You can read more of her musings at

1 person has left a comment

You make some good points about managing the “diver” and the “waiter”. I agree the “are people too” theme, but I have serious issue with the word “resource”. In fact, in my opinion the notion “resources are people too” is a bit of an oxymoron.

Resource implies something mechanical or non-human, like a financial resource or an energy resource. It implies that people are interchangeable. It may seem like a linguistic nuance, but I believe that human nature is to believe what language tells them (whether they mean to or not). I think a conscious effort simply to NOT use the term “resource” would go a long way for what you are advocating.

Good post!

Ryan wrote on August 12, 2011 - 10:27 am | Visit Link

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