Can project teams really get too much of a good thing? Sometimes they can if the surplus isn’t managed well. If you’ve experienced unexpected project challenges when funding, labor, or other resources are freely available, you know how frustrating this can be. Most project managers are more accustomed to fighting tooth and nail for money and staff, struggling against shortages rather than trying to use up excess resources.
Ironically, wiggle room in the budget and extra workforce support aren’t only available during times of plenty. Poor economic conditions and a difficult business climate can also result in an oversupply of labor or funding if your organization’s project portfolio has been trimmed to maintain a more conservative short-term position. With fewer active initiatives on the schedule, you may find team members have more time on their hands, vendors are willing to be more flexible on pricing, or budget line items originally intended to be dispersed across multiple projects are now earmarked for only one or two efforts.
But though the situations where your team has more supplies and talent than are required may be few, there can be some surprising downsides to these bonus resources. We’ve put together some tips to avoid the pitfalls your organization may encounter if you aren’t struggling to find what you need, but instead have more resources available than you require.
Your cost efficiency may drop if resources are freely available. Why? Without a need to carefully manage project expenditures, your team might let time pressures get the best of them when it comes to choosing resources, opting for speed or convenience over cost. Even in times of easy availability, it’s still important to price shop for resources that provide the best value based on your needs, including comparing prices across multiple vendors to ensure your project investments are delivering the maximum return. It’s generally unwise to pay significantly more than current market prices demand or to purchase more resources than you actually need.
You also want to consolidate and sequence activities in a way that uses your resources as effectively as possible, and those practices shouldn’t be shelved just because your funding or staffing levels exceed your needs in a particular area. Remember, too, that your organization is likely to conduct periodic reviews to ensure your fiscal management practices are sound and efficient, and pricing outliers may reflect badly on your team over the long term.
If internal, contracted, or temporary labor is readily available, your project team’s productivity could diminish. This may sound backwards, but activities are often allowed to consume the amount of time that’s available to complete them. When workers have fewer tasks competing for their usable hours, they might take longer to execute duties than was originally forecasted. Monitor productivity carefully when workloads are light to ensure that a two-day task doesn’t eat up four days, simply because there isn’t enough other work to fill the extra time.
Another follow-on consequence of free time is that idle team members could suffer from sagging morale, motivation, and accountability. Just as productivity can fall if your group has surplus labor resources, workers who don’t have enough to do can also experience boredom. If that boredom becomes commonplace, your team’s passion for driving projects to completion could dry up. Carefully managing your labor resources so your initiatives utilize stakeholders’ time effectively is a balancing act. You don’t want everyone overworked but you don’t want to assign more resources that are truly needed. Be mindful to maintain a middle ground so that an abundance of workforce availability doesn’t result in negative impacts down the road.