As with any other behavior change, convincing functional managers that it is a good idea for them to do their regular team planning in a centralized, consistent fashion can be a hard sell. There’s little doubt that there’s benefit to the senior management team of being able to rapidly understand cross-functional skill bottlenecks or to understand when the right time is to kick off the next project. Similarly, a project manager is not likely to complain if it is that much easier to analyze the impacts of staff allocation changes to their schedules.
Functional managers are usually not as happy about such initiatives, especially if they are not already performing such activities. This malaise is likely to be felt the greatest by both extremes – managers with very few staff reporting to them will feel the value diminishes the smaller a team size gets and those with very large sized teams will expect to spend a significant amount of effort in maintaining the data.
Similar to time tracking, if you can’t answer the “What’s in it for me?” question that these functional managers are likely to pose, you’ll likely find forward team plans developed and maintained in an inconsistent fashion. This completely negates the benefit of introducing these practices – if the data can’t support decision making, the changes are not worth making.
So how can you appeal to functional managers to give these changes a fair shake? It will likely take between one to two hours per week to maintain plans for up to ten staff, so what benefits can you present to justify the incremental effort?
- Justifying work prioritization or resource augmentation – most functional managers are faced with too much work and too few people to deliver it, and while those making the demands on their staff may understand this conceptually, nothing can beat a visual, objective representation of insufficient capacity.
- Improved visibility and understanding for team members – while there are other methods for a functional manager to keep their team in the loop on what everyone else is working on, a consistent, updated plan can provide this same information in a more efficient manner which should help to improve manager – employee relations.
- Simplifying transition planning – something all managers dread is having to transition their team’s workload to a peer before they leave. Having resource plans current and publicly visible reduces the effort spent on such transition activities.
- Simplifying annual planning – for organizations that require functional managers to perform this activity once a year, the effort involved can be significant. If they are already maintaining one on a weekly or monthly basis, no further effort should be required.
- Improved staffing discussions with project managers – whether it is for staffing a new project, or negotiating through a project change that is going to require additional resources, the availability of resource plans improves the level of information available to project managers and removes that old excuse “I didn’t know that I couldn’t hang on to Bob for longer!”
Using these benefits can provide you with a path to convince functional managers to seek first to understand (what their staff are working on), then to be understood (by senior management & project managers)!