Assigning Responsibilities to Individuals

Assigning Responsibilities to Individuals

As project manager, your role in staff acquisition and assignment is to determine the specific time, cost, and resource commitments required to complete the project. This must be done for every activity. Some of these cannot be completed until after more planning has occurred, such as detailed activity estimates ("Estimating Duration and Cost") derived from software size estimates ("Software Size and Reuse Estimating"). It is also part of the project manager's role to negotiate with resource controllers for the services of the people with the required skills, if necessary.

Comprehending Roll-On and Roll-Off

The project manager must also develop a roll-on and roll-off plan for each of the resources needed. This recognizes that showing five weeks of a Java developer starting on March 1 in your project plan to build a needed component assumes that the Java developer "hits the ground running" and doesn't waste time figuring out who's doing what, where everything is, what the overall architecture is, or how the Java development will fit into the product architecture and project plan. Instead, the resource should be reserved or acquired early enough for orientation before the skills are directly required on the project. For resources from neighboring departments in a larger organization, this may need to be only a short period because the common company culture (acronyms, procedures, expectations, etc.) will carry over. But for new recruits, college hires, or geographically remote transfers (especially from culturally different areas or countries), this may take a substantial amount of time. This need seems obvious to most of us, but it is often overlooked in preparing software development project plans.

After completion of the activity, the person may need to execute roll-off activities before actually being removed from active participation in the project. Roll-off activities may include knowledge transfer to remaining team members, cleanup of local files and work spaces, documentation and hand-off of passwords, identification of the locations of project work products, or other actions needed when a team member leaves.

Normally, this roll-on and roll-off time is not included in effort estimates calculated from component sizes. It is generally not a good idea to just expand the activity estimates to include this time. If the estimates were made by a team or were made assuming that an average-skilled engineer would perform them, then the source of the resource was probably not included in the calculation. Of course, if the person to do the work is already identified, then roll-on and roll-off time can be included in the effort and time estimate when that person is asked to supply it.

Resource Assignment Strategy

Let's explore some strategies for assigning resources to activities. Resource assignment is not simply a case of handing out the various activities on your final lists to the people you have available; it is far more subtle (and powerful) than that. As a project manager, you have to look far beyond the single project; indeed any individual project can be seen as merely a single step in your team's development. The allocation of people to activities should thus be seen as a means of increasing the skills and experience of your team. When the project is complete, the team should have gained.

In simple terms, consider what each member of your team is capable of and allocate sufficient complexity of activities and tasks to match that (and to stretch them slightly). If at all possible, activities should be molded to fit the people, which is far more effective than the other way around. For example, if Joe is to learn something new on this project, the task or activity assigned to him may be simplified, with Mary assigned responsibility to guide him and check the work. If Andie is to develop her career, sufficient activities are combined so that her responsibility increases beyond what she has held before. If Perry lacks confidence, the activities assigned to him should be broken into smaller units, which can be completed (and celebrated) frequently.

Sometimes activities can be grouped together and assigned to one person or group for best effect. For instance, some activities that seem to be independent may benefit from being done together because they use common ideas, information, and talents. Assigning only one person to do them removes the startup time for one of them. Sometimes assigning two people where one would be the minimum necessary allows them to help each other, providing career growth.

Fitting a Person to a Role

Through his research at ITT in the 1980s, Bill Curtis discovered that it is better to hire people because of their traits than because of a specific skill as explained on their resumes. Whenever possible, select team members for their compatible and complementary personality traits rather than their demonstrated skill in a specific area. This seems contrary to popular belief at first, but it makes sense when you understand that it is easier to train people in a new technical (and often rapidly changing) skill that is needed than to change their personality traits. Most people enjoy learning new things anyway. The training need not be formal. The general ability to rapidly learn and adjust to constantly changing information is often more valuable than deep experience in one or two skill areas, assuming basic competency in the core technologies. Of course, if the person's personality does not fit the activity very well, then stress results and disharmony begins to appear.

A useful instrument for identifying the potential of poor task and activity performance is the WorkStyle Patterns Inventory (WSPI) from the McFletcher Corporation. The purpose of the assessment is to identify how a person prefers to approach work versus the approach that his position or activity assignment requires; it may be administered by a facilitator certified by McFletcher. Analysis of discrepancies between a person's preferred workstyle and his actual workstyle can produce various degrees of stress, which may be manifested in a variety of ways.

McFletcher defines two kinds of stress: personal and organizational. Typical personal responses to stress include apathy and/or low productivity, irritability and frequent complaints, and health disorders or illnesses. Personal stress generally takes place because the person wants to perform more activities of a specific kind than the position requires. Organizational stress can be observed through misunderstandings of work expectations, product quality and customer service problems, missed deadlines, and high turnover. Organizational stress may result when the position requires more activities of a specific kind than the person is inclined to perform.

According to the inventory, a person may fall into one of the categories indicated in Table 1. The inventory (questionnaire) scores are graphed as a discrepancy of preference versus actual position, as shown in the example in Figure 1.

Sample McFletcher WorkStyle Inventory

McFletcher WorkStyle Inventory Model

The sample graph in Figure 1 shows profile scores for a team leader with a preferred workstyle of an independent worker and an actual position workstyle of supervisor. This person prefers to work independently through managing his or her own work. The position requires coordinating the work of others. Perhaps the team leader wants to perform more direct computer work, whereas the position requires more coordinating, coaching, and scheduling activities than he is inclined to do. This is typical for many technologists promoted to a position of leadership. This team leader may want to consider obtaining some coaching or even making a job change.

With this tool, the workstyles of each team member may be plotted on a summary chart, validating a complementary mix of workstyles, or exposing a conflict or imbalance.

Developing the Project Staffing Management Plan

As resource assignments that consider job and team fit, career plans, and project needs are made to activities in the WBS, a project-staffing plan takes shape. Normally, this information is entered into a project management scheduling tool, such as Microsoft Project or an equivalent, and a staffing plan can start to be generated. Ultimately, this information becomes part of the software project management plan (SPMP), discussed elsewhere. The staffing plan will show how many of each role the project will need and when they will be required. Some of this information will need to come from the dependency and scheduling activities described in "Considering Dependencies" and "Scheduling the Work". The staffing management plan is especially helpful for large development projects where many skilled people must be hired to fulfill project requirements months or years into the future. Normally, these are represented as histograms, with units expressed as hours or full-time equivalents (FTEs). An example staffing plan histogram is shown in Figure 2.

Staffing Plan Histogram

The staffing management plan includes information about skill, amount required, schedule timing, and how the staffing will be done for each type of role. It may be formal or informal, highly detailed or broadly framed, based on the needs of the project and the organizational maturity of the organization. If the resources must be searched for and hired into the team, search professionals will want to have a staffing pool description available, which contains such information as:

 ●  Skills and competencies needed;
 ●  Experience level desired;
 ●  Cost (salary) targets;
 ●  Personal characteristics and interests for team fit;
 ●  Availability requirements.

The search professional may require many other characteristics beyond those shown here. The staffing plan may also include information about the reporting relationships required to carry out the project.


software size, software development, spmp, staffing plan, staffing pool description
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