The Best is not Always Best Thing for Your Project

As a project manager, your projects…your team…your customer are the most important things in the world to you, right?  Well, at least in terms of work, right?  You always would want to have the best so you can give yourself, your team, your project, and your customer the best possible chance at success…right?  Hang on…not so fast.  But…why not?  You want to best skill set, right?  You want the most experienced, right?  You want the best technology, right?  Maybe… but maybe not.

When you're running a project and you know that it’s a high profile project and you know that you’re on a tight schedule and that everyone’s eyes are on the project and on you, you need the best team possible.  You should want whatever will help you succeed.  And that should be the best of everything. Here’s the stinger…what I’ve found in my experience is that sometimes the best is not always the best for your project. 

Where the best can present a problem – everyone wants them

During my years as a project manager, I’ve usually been leading several projects concurrently.  Often five or more projects at a time.  And each of those projects have had four to six key project resources – possibly even more depending on how large the project was - including business analysts, application developers, tech leads, software architects, and data specialists.  

Having the best in each of those resource categories can sometimes be a huge plus for your project, but it also usually means these high-level resources are in high demand and are probably playing key roles on one or more other projects.  What that can often mean is you are in danger of having one of them pulled off your project to consult on issues that arise on another project – meaning their time available to you can be limited or unexpectedly interrupted.  And when a key resource suddenly disappears from your project customer satisfaction and customer confidence are the first things to take a hit.  Customers start to perceive that you’re treating them as a less important client and can quickly become frustrated.

I've had projects that I’ve led where I’ve had possibly the top company resource in a particular skill category and it has served me well on some of those projects and it’s also served me quite poorly on other occasions.   One project comes to mind specifically where I lost an extremely talented business analyst for an extended period of time to another project he was simultaneously working on.  Deadlines started to pass and my customer began thinking they were being treated like a second-class client.  They were not happy and they were certainly becoming dissatisfied quickly.  It took some extreme action on my part including going to senior management and my resources’ direct supervisor, but I got him back and straightened out the project schedule.  But some irreversible damage had already been done.

Summary / call for input

The best sounds like what you want.  However, you often find yourself fighting what that resource’s time because they are helping on multiple projects and mentoring others.  They are in high demand.  Plus, they often bill out at the highest rate possible causing higher costs for your project.  Go for the best in those positions and on those projects where you absolutely need the best.  But when you don’t, maybe it’s ok to have #2 or #3 or even #7.  They will be easier to hang on to during crunch time, trust me.

What about the rest of you project managers?  Do you find yourself fighting over top resources – struggling to keep the best?  What about costs to the project?  Please share your thoughts.


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