“Good to Great.” “Built to Last.” “Execution.” “First, Break All The Rules.” Each of these hit business books carry in large part the same message: If you are going to get things done right, you simply must have the right people, in the right roles, equipped with the right skills.
And yet, the speed of business continues to increase. Organizations, constantly seeking new opportunities in the market, are overrun with projects that devour resources and expertise. As a project manager, your role is to execute the projects deemed appropriate by your leadership. You are put in a challenging position when you attempt to deliver and you discover you’ve been handed a team ill-equipped to get the job done. What can you do to bring your challenges to light in a proactive and effective manner?
1. Educate your Functional Managers
Set a meeting with the functional managers of your team members individually, and detail in fine points both the tasks their staff will be responsible for on the project, and the skills required to complete them. Often, functional managers are put in a position to make team assignments quickly, without all the relevant data. Getting that understanding from you as project manager builds an important bridge, and may offer the opportunity for insight into team decisions; with all data on the table, you may find you are in a better position to ask for a new resource for the project.
2. Include training in scope
There is one sure-fire method to ensure your team has the skills required to deliver the project: include skills training as a deliverable in the scope of your project plan. This simple point delivers two key messages. To your team, you are saying that you value their participation and you want them to succeed even in light of the complicated requirements of the project. To your project sponsors, you are documenting a key short-coming in the qualifications of your team members and high-lighting your plan to overcome it; you are a professional that understands how to get things done in spite of extreme obstacles.
3. Outsource to contractors who have the skills
Many project requirements may be too complicated to provide just-in-time training for your critical team members. In this case, make room in your project budget to allow for outsourcing key deliverables to contractors or vendors who have the skills and expertise to get the job done.
4. Use a part-timer for on-the-job training
If you are struggling to find a key skill in a particular area of your project, consider inviting an expert to join as a part time team member. Their role will be to provide expertise in the under-served area, and allow other team members to learn from them on the job. This is a good solution if you need to help a team member brush up in specific areas, though the burden is on you to ensure there is adequate balance between skills handoff and project work.
The art of navigating the Skill Gap rests in your ability to find efficient, low overhead solutions to delivering your project. The project must win. If you find you don’t have the skills on your team to get your project done, look to your sponsor to help you build exceptional project support.