Project Resourcing in a Matrix Environment – Herding Cats?

Written by Rhona Aylward

Rhona is Deputy Everything Officer at Psoda, where she does everything except code. After starting life as a microbiologist she moved into PMO leadership roles around the world before settling in New Zealand with her family.
In today’s environment of fiscal frugality, matrix resourcing is becoming the preferred way of staffing projects. However, it regularly throws up problems like the one below as people are working on multiple projects and work where and when the need arises. “I have a week of annual leave scheduled. I made sure that all of the project managers that I have dealings with knew about it in advance, it is on the shared calendar and my director sent emails to everyone to make sure they know I won’t be available over that particular week. One of the project managers has now claimed they were not informed and has scheduled a lot of critical and time sensitive work during that week. Unfortunately, due to staff retrenchment/retirement, I am the only person in the entire company that can do this particular piece of work. The customer needs the work to be ready for a Government audit and the customer is responsible for around 25% of our total business, so they are a huge and valuable client. What do I do?”  How would you handle this one? Answer at the bottom of the page. Without solid communication and strong resource management, with tools that actively support it things can get very messy, very quickly. In my experience, the organisations that have well functioning matrix resource management are the ones that encourage personal responsibility at all levels of the organisation. What do I mean by that? If you’re involved at any level in a matrix resourced project you need to make sure that you, the individual, take responsibility for communicating with the other team members about progress, problems, leave etc. That way you are not relying on a single point of failure in the communication chain. I’m not saying that mistakes won’t happen, but they will be significantly reduced. It also helps if the project manager makes sure the people working on the project feel like a team. This is especially important if the team is geographically separated. This could be something as simple as rotating the time of the team meetings so no one geolocation is inconvenienced. I personally feel that while matrix resourcing is a double-edged sword it does offer some benefits to the individuals. Not only do you get exposure to multiple ways of working, you get to meet others within the organisation that you may never meet, which is always a good thing. Oh and the answer to the problem I highlighted earlier? The person with the leave booked suggested to their manager that they bring in one of the recently retired staff members on a short-term contract to cover the work.

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