I had the good fortune to present with some excellent fellow speakers at this year’s Resource Planning Summit in Nashville, TN.
Speakers were on hand from leading organizations to talk about good practices in resource planning that have helped them succeed, as well as challenges to look out for.
Several common themes emerged across the diverse presenters:
Prioritization is essential to good resource planning
Engagement across business units is key to allocating resources properly across the enterprise portfolio
An ongoing cadence of portfolio reviews and resource allocation is necessary to keep things on track
Paying attention to demand distribution and how people and money should be aligned across demand types can help ensure optimal resource utilization
The human side of resource management cannot be underestimated. Resource optimization and productivity is as much a psychological issue as it is an alignment and capacity/demand issue.
The closing day keynote speaker was filmmaker/screenwriter David Hayter (X-Men, X-Men 2, Watchmen), whose behind-the-scenes filmmaking stories brought a wealth of advice in an entertaining and humorous fashion. Some key takeaways I noted, especially regarding the soft skills of leadership and resource productivity, but also in project and portfolio management, were:
All environments are chaotic to a degree. Some are exceedingly chaotic and downright negative. Sometimes this is because the leader WANTS chaos. They think that constantly changing directions will keep people sharp or give them an advantage (note: It may, but at what cost?). Then it becomes a matter of how to perform well in such environments. This is true in filmmaking and in business.
Being unpredictable is one of the power principles espoused in the book, 48 Laws of Power, by Robert Greene, a Machiavellian tome described by its own publisher as "amoral, cunning, ruthless, and instructive." Hayter added that this is by no means a recommended strategy, merely an expose into the mind of such leaders.
People set the culture of any organization. BUT… the leader's energy (positive or negative) often spreads to the whole team.
Regarding projects and programs: Don't be afraid to switch gears if it'll bring greater value, regardless of how much has already been spent. In the X-Men movie, a late decision was made to involve a lead character more because it was the right thing to do, even though it added cost. The value return was exponential.
In general, think more toward value than cost. Some of the best ideas weren't planned from the beginning. Sometimes you may need to make a case for taking corrective or new action.
Ernest Hemingway said "Kill your darlings." This is applicable to project portfolios as well. Sometimes to bring greater value, there's more to be eliminated than there is to be added.
When given conflicting or contradicting direction by different stakeholders or leaders, have a dialogue to address the differences. Be a leader.
Chaos happens, but a good, open culture can help expedite problem solving. You may reach the same finish line in both positive and negative environments, but the latter is unnecessarily stressful.
Since chaos and troubleshooting are the norm, the only thing you can control is yourself and your reaction to it. Some guidelines are:
Don't take on a fight you know you can't win
A combination of humility, listening, and adapting, plus knowing when to stand up and fight back is the ideal course to take.
Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse said, "Be nice... until it's time to not be nice." But keep in mind the above. There is a nobility in the Zen response.
Leverage opportunities when you get them, but be prepared to deal with a variety of situations. Remember, "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity" - Roman philosopher Seneca.
In addition to the above takeaways from David Hayter, attendees were asked to contribute their favorite quotes from the event. Below is a short summary:
You can't change an event, but you can change the outcome.
Normal is the exception to the rule.
People are the fuel on which an organization runs.
Life is change.
Resource management is the cure for disengagement.
Life isn't always the party we hoped for, but while we're here we might as well dance.
If you want to create a movement, get people engaged.
The first casualty in any battle is the plan.
Employee entrepreneurial orientation delivers innovation.
General Custer could've used resource management.
Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.
All in all, the event was a splendid time for all (to paraphrase the Beatles).
Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn.