Resource Management is the Wrong Idea; Manage Your Project Portfolio Instead

I had the chance to teach agile ideas to some project portfolio managers, or people who were considering setting up a PMO to manage the project portfolio.

Many of these folks had a real concern: how to manage “resources.” (People to you and me.) Part of what I said to them was that resource management was the wrong idea. Instead of flowing work through people, optimize at a higher level and flow projects through teams.

They were surprised.

Part of their surprise is that for too long, we have treated projects (in any industry) as piece work. We parcel out the pieces to the expert. We wait for the expert to complete the work and then parcel out the work to the next expert. See my posts about resource vs. flow efficiency earlier this year.

If you want to implement strategy through the project portfolio, you have to select the right projects—at least for now—to start and finish. That means you stop thinking about “resource” management and start thinking about project portfolio management and how you see the flow of value through the project for the organization. You see more finished work and less incomplete work. You see the value that finished projects provide, instead of much work in progress.

Optimizing for a given person’s contributions make little sense for many organizations. People are too interdependent on one another to finish projects.

Instead, optimize for the project’s contribution to the organization. Manage your project portfolio.

Manage Your Project Portfolio, 2nd editionIn a recent #PMChat, the people there said Manage Your Project Portfolio had terrific ideas for selecting the right project for your organization, for now. See PMO Setup Hurdles (& Solutions) In 60 Minutes. (Thanks!)

Don’t do “resource management.” That optimizes at the wrong level. Decide which projects to do first, second, third, and never. Manage that project portfolio. You’ll see the value your projects can bring you.

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2 Comments

  1. Nate Adams

    Thank you so much for this. I commonly try to get folks to stop thinking in terms of “I need this developer for this project and these two developers for this project” and instead thinking about dividing the work within the projects into the logical domains and feed that work to the development groups. It often amazes me just how foreign a concept this is for many folks.

    Reply
    • johanna

      Nate, you are welcome! Best wishes for the changes you want to make in your org.

      Reply

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