Friday, February 16, 2007

February 16, 2007 – Non-Team Resource Management

At my current engagement there are a number of us that are scattered about as individual consultants on different projects. Being one of the senior people on site I have certain management responsibilities for some that are not on one of my project teams. For consulting this is fairly common. With in house companies this would equate to a very weak matrixed environment where the resources belong to one group but are loaned out to projects with little or no direct supervision from the parent group.

There are a few obvious non-team resource manager responsibilities like approving timesheets and performing annual performance reviews. Because the resources don’t report directly to me for day-to-day activities, this presents a problem. For example, how do I know someone wasn’t out sick on Tuesday but put 40 hours on their timesheet? Or, how do I get feedback for their evaluations? Here are some suggestions to solve these and other problems with this type of environment.

The core to making this work is to build relationships. Contact them in an informal way on a regular basis. If possible the “walk by” management works well. Stop by their desk and ask how things are going and if there is anything they need or problems they have. Phone calls are good for those longer distances and if you can swing a videoconference you get bonus points.

As you start to understand who they are you can begin to understand what motivates them. Although they aren’t directly working with you, any motivation you can provide allows them to satisfy the department or client they are working with.

Training is an important motivational aspect that has two other benefits. First, it gives them additional or improved skills to be more productive. Second, it shows them that they in your eyes they are worth the investment.

Maintain an open dialog with them. In addition to the walk by visits, you can schedule lunches or other opportunities to get together. A problem that can develop over time as the individual begins to think of themselves as part of that other group. Eventually that assignment or project is going to come to an end and the individual is going to feel alienated. This is especially true for consultants.

All of these things feed in to resource retention and must be done proactively. Once there is a crisis or someone decides to switch companies it is too late to fix it. In some cases it could take 2-3 months to retrain someone for that position causing pain for both you and the group they were supporting. Then nobody is happy.

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