Resource Management: A look at the dynamics & processes needed for an aligned organization

By Lisa Forsyth, Senior Manager, Production

Last spring I was invited to read a pre-release version of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook by Jerry Manas and submit a brief write-up for inclusion in the printed version. Since Manas is the author of one of my all-time favorites — Managing the Gray Areas: Essential Insights for Leading People, Projects & Organizations — I jumped at the chance to get an early look at his next piece of work.

“In The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Manas does a masterful job of unveiling and dissecting the dynamics at play in both the people and process sides of resource management. He demystifies the complexities of capacity and demand management without over-simplifying the approach and the Capacity Quadrant Manas defines is a powerful framework that any organization can use “to maximize its limited resources toward the most value-producing work.”

Since I’m no longer constrained to the length of what makes sense for an endorsement, I thought I’d continue where I left off. The Capacity Quadrant is definitely worth a deeper look! It outlines a number of tools and techniques to increase organizational maturity across four dynamics at play in effective resource management and capacity planning: Visibility, Prioritization, Optimization, and Integration.

VISIBILITY. | According to Manas, improving visibility across three lenses — the Demand lens, the Capacity Lens, and the System Lens–provides a more holistic picture of demand, capacity, and the variables that impact productivity and workload.

  • Demand Lens. Effective resource management requires visibility into the entire body of active and pending work.
  • Capacity Lens. Since not every resource working hour is spent on planned work, visibility into planned time off, hours spent on administrative activities, unplanned work, and a general percentage estimate of personal activities such as coffee breaks, casual conversations, and the occasional personal call or email is essential for capacity planning.
  • System Lens. Increasing awareness and improving visibility into the barriers to productivity and efficiency that exist within an organization–barriers that create unnecessary demand–is an essential part of resource management and capacity planning.

PRIORITIZATION. | There are multiple lenses for determining work priority as well: Alignment, Scoring, and Categorization. Through all these lenses, better decisions can be made to prioritize and rank demand so that resources can be assigned — and shifted as needed — to work that matters.

  • Alignment. Effective prioritization requires understanding the organization’s goals and objectives. All work should somehow be tied to an organization’s annual operating plan, which is itself linked to the more overarching strategic plan. Projects can be linked to the appropriate end products they support.
  • Scoring. Once work is aligned, the next step is to identify the value of the work to determine its priority. Assign values to benefits, such as strategic alignment, financial return, and operational efficiency, and risks, including complexity and resource availability. Use the same scoring mechanism across projects so they are easier to compare and prioritize in relation to one another.
  • Categorization. In addition to organizational alignment and benefit/risk score, it is helpful to categorize the work in other ways to provide additional lenses by which it can be assessed, such as business drivers or work classification, which can be mandatory or discretionary.

OPTIMIZATION. | The optimization dynamic focuses on making the most efficient use of resources across the right mix of work.

  • Staffing Strategy. Make the best use of your limited resources by examining sourcing options–direct staff, outsourced, offshore, supplemental consultants, etc.–and employing different staffing strategies across different types of work.
  • Investment Planning. When projects are aligned, scored, and categorized, decisions can be made around which work to take on and how to strategically distribute resources across primary objectives, secondary objectives, and other work.
  • Productivity. Revisit the Systems Lens and ensure variables that can impact resource workload are addressed.

INTEGRATION. | This final quadrant involves reconciling visibility, prioritization, and optimization strategies with the “everyday realities and operations of resource management.” It includes understanding the various levels of planning, setting up practical governance councils, and managing change.

  • Top-down/Bottom-up Levels of Planning. Planning is a collective effort, conducted at multiple levels. The most flexible and pragmatic approach allows for more granular resource planning as the actual work approaches and more is known.
  • Tiered Governance. The goal of governance is to oversee active initiatives and to evaluate ongoing progress with an eye on current organizational priorities and capacity constraints. This is the glue that holds capacity planning together.
  • Managing Change. Despite the best planning, change is inevitable. The best practice is to have a cross-functional change board or council for quickly evaluating potential changes and weighing in on the impact, benefits, and risks. This may or may not be the same group that serves as the governance council.

The Capacity Quadrant outlined by Manas is a powerful framework for ensuring that proper visibility, demand prioritization, resource optimization, and integrated planning are in place for a truly aligned organization.

Originally published at smashingideas.com on April 6, 2015.

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