My projects suffer from resource theft II

I wrote an article recently about resource theft in projects; I was encouraged to do so from a comment on a project management course I ran. The article is published below for the 2nd time.


I put a link to the blog on LinkedIn and I had some really interesting comments back from people and I thought them worthy of a wider audience.

I have therefore reproduced below the article originally published on May 24th this year with a link to the comments from LinkedIn. Do add any below or in LinkedIn:

I was taken aback by the above comment from someone on a recent project management course. The group had been discussing project management problems and RESOURCE THEFT was mentioned.

The group listened as the course participant explained that he would be working on a project and then all of a sudden a project resource (a person) would be taken away to work on a project that is ‘more important.’  This happens all to frequently according to this person. When asked about the consequences of this on his project he mentioned that delivery dates would not be met.

This was not simply one individual saying this. There were several others in the project management training course who said it has happened to them. So, we looked at ways of managing this process:

  • complete a change request form – as someone suggested, this is a change to the project and should be managed as one; with the sponsor signing the change request
  • if this is common practice or history suggests that this could well happen again then put this on to the risk log – specifically raising this with the project sponsor before it happens
  • one person suggested it is the job of the project manager to manage issues such as this which means developing skills still further especially with resource allocation (this did not go down too well in all quarters)
  • educate your senior managers/sponsor on project management generally and specifically of the impact of any changes before they happen – see next point
  • create a priority project list. This would ensure everyone is clear about what the priorities of the project are – but it would not mean thefts would stop…it could act as a mechanism though for discussions and debate
  • One person suggested that they should put their head above the parapet – something we had spoken about earlier in the project management course

This is not the first time this topic has come up on one of our project management training courses. It is however it’s the first time anyone has used the words ‘resource theft!’

What are your suggestions for dealing with this issue or even preventing it from happening?

To read the comments on LinkedIn in click here – add your own comments below or LinkedIn

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4 Responses to My projects suffer from resource theft II

  1. Chris Warren says:

    Have to say I love the term ‘Resource Theft’ and fully intend in using it from now on for impact if nothing else.

    I have worked in environments where this is simply the norm and no amounts of skill development will help (glad I wasn’t in the room when that was suggested!) . In a matrix/silo environment this IS going to happen. In the past, in the absence of a correct portfolio plan, I have forced senior managers to agree prioirties within the region to assist when these problems arise. It doesn’t stop them completely ignoring it minutes after they signed up to it but at least you have documented proof of where the project stands in the grand scheme of things when the escalation/exception occurs.

    Fully realise that some PMs won’t have the ability to ‘force’ management into a room so my other suggestion would be to have it as a risk from day 1. I’d then be very open and honest with my project team that they may well be asked by their line management to work on something else that will stop them achieving their tasks/milestones on time. Foster a team dynamic that allows them to alert you to this at the earliest opportunity when a clash arises (without fear of recrimination) so you can work with management behind the scenes to resolve whilst they crack on.

    • Ron Rosenhead says:

      Thanks Chris. Glad you like the term – not mine I hasten to add!

      There are some great points in your response. One issue that stands out is the need for project managers to put their heads above the parapet – as you describe by forcing senior managers to agree priorities etc. many of the project managers I meet are starting their project manager journey and this is certainly outside their experience – but something i talk about and the link with the risk register.

      The team dynamic issue is a great point.

      It may be the norm for some- it’s how it’s managed that counts as the project still has to be delivered.

      Thanks again Chris

  2. craig says:

    How about capture the relevant data – say elapse time or task cost, and then show people the consequences of what is happening.

    • Ron Rosenhead says:

      Good suggestion Craig…indeed there are many such ideas that could be used.

      The key here is that the company I was working in are not particularly mature in project management terms or management terms. For me they go together.

      The issue of consequences is a big one that a lot of clients we work in are not always open to —-yet.

      Thanks again

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