Harsh Conditions Ahead- Resourcefulness in Project Management

Harsh Conditions Ahead- Resourcefulness in Project Management


Harsh Conditions Ahead- Resourcefulness in Project Management
Harsh Conditions Ahead- Resourcefulness in Project Management


One of my favourite personal development speakers is Tony Robbins, (a world re-known coach, speaker and author) - and in one of his lectures, he has a saying about resourcefulness that has really stuck with me:

It’s not the lack of resources, it’s your lack of resourcefulness that stops you!

Not only is this a timeless quote, but also very applicable to project management. The reason that it has resonated with me strongly is because there have been countless times when I've encountered fellow Project Managers throwing around the same old excuses when their projects fail:

  • “I didn't have enough resources” 
  • “Deadlines were too short” 
  • “The scope was too large” 
  • “Stakeholders were not fully engaged”
If only we had the resources. It might be a lack of time, money, knowledge, or manpower. Or it might be something else entirely. In life, as in project management, it is not always about how much resources you have (of course you need to plan accordingly and make the necessary estimates and risk management plans), but about how efficiently you make use of those limited resources. 

When business conditions change mid-project, when your key sponsor leaves the organization or when your critical team members fall sick - it is your ability to stay resourceful in those harsh conditions that will determine whether or not your project survives. In the new International Competencies Baseline 4.0 (ICB4), the International Project Management Association (IPMA) has a great section that deep-dives into resourcefulness. The IPMA define resourcefulness as:

“The ability to apply various techniques and ways of thinking to defining, analysing, prioritising, finding alternatives for and dealing with or solving challenges and problems.”

The ICB4 goes on to also highlight that being resourceful requires thinking and acting in original and imaginative ways, while stimulating the creativity of individuals and the collective creativity of the team. The importance of this competency is that it enables individuals to effectively handle uncertainty, problems, changes, limitations, and stressful situations by systematically and continuously searching for new, better and more effective approaches. This is specifically important when risks, opportunities, problems and difficult situations arise.

Let's illustrate this concept with an example from nature. Imagine the Sahara Desert, one of the harshest conditions on earth. When you think of it, do you imagine a lifeless wasteland where nothing can survive? While you may think of this desert as a lifeless location, it is actually quite diverse and rich in life where certain animals and plants have been able to thrive even under difficult conditions – this is a testament to their resourcefulness. Take for example a Camel that has adapted to store a large amount of fat in the humps on top of its backs. The fat can be burned for energy when the camel is unable to locate any food in the harsh desert conditions.

How we can better survive the harsh business and project management environments through the art of resourcefulness? How do we drive project success in today's rapidly changing environment, while companies expect us to do more with less? Today's project managers have to learn on the fly, cope with business turmoil and balance agility with quality. Here are a few tips that can help get you started to become a more resourceful Project Manager:

1) Focus on Operational Excellence in PM Processes
Have you ever noticed that Project Management methodologies fundamentally focus on processes? Whether it be PRINCE2 or PMI, they all have well defined processes that help guide project managers in their daily work.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) in the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) has the following key process groups:

In PRINCE2 there are seven interconnected key processes:

If we know that project management methodologies fundamentally focus on processes, why don't we spark some creativity around optimizing these processes? Why don't we apply principles of Lean Six Sigma around our project processes? Lean Six Sigma is a methodology that relies on a collaborative team effort to improve performance by systematically removing waste and reducing variation in processes. It combines lean manufacturing/lean enterprise and Six Sigma to eliminate the seven kinds of waste (known as “muda”)

Having an awareness of Lean Six Sigma and applying it to our project management processes could help us to be more resourceful in our projects. Try to boost your your organization's competency profile by training your Project Managers in Lean Six Sigma, to drive synergies between these two methodologies!

2) See the Bigger Picture with a Holistic View of the Project Context

Taking a holistic approach to a difficult situation can enable you to have a better understanding of a wide array of influences, interests and possibilities. Stepping back and understanding the situation in relation to the broader context of the project enables the project manager to use multiple perspectives to judge and deal with the situation, thus separating the details from the big picture. The below image helps to illustrate this point. It is an example of an optical illusion that when you focus on any single element you may see only a flower, bird, butterfly or tree - losing sight of the "Big Picture", which is also the face of two people:

Just like being detailed oriented is a specific skill, which requires proper training and a special focus, similarly big picture thinking requires practice. When we are exposed to risks, opportunities, problems and when difficult situations arise it is sometimes difficult to see the bigger picture, and we tend to stay focused on a particular deliverable. Next time try to focus on the following questions to evaluate the impact on the project "Big Picture":

- What is the context? - How is the overall project impacted?

 - Who should I escalate or seek guidance to validate any assumptions? 

- What is the corrective action that I must take?

3) Facilitate Creative Techniques to Drive Alternatives and Solutions

Facilitation in project management means a process of intervention in the working environment to increase productivity and efficiency of the team and to prevent project failure. This process aims to ensure success in project delivery. It should result in forming a well trained and experienced team committed to the implementation of the approved recommendations. Using this facilitation to drive creativity is a resourcefulness game changer. Facilitating workshops that drive alternatives and solutions will augment resourcefulness. Try divergent and convergent facilitation, which is composed of two phases of creative thinking:

Divergence: Stimulating new thinking by diversifying and exploring; and Convergence: Refining and choosing the best possibilities.

4) Create an Open & Creative Project Culture – and Leverage Diversity

Creating a project culture that embraces diversity of all kinds will stimulate and support creativity, knowledge sharing and contribution of broad ranging ideas. Such a culture will bring refreshing input during challenging times, broadening the perspective of potential solutions and alternatives. Bringing people together from a wide variety of backgrounds creates tremendous opportunities for an organization, but it must be built on on mutual respect, trust and reliability. By leveraging the excitement, the willingness and the capability of people from diverse backgrounds, resourceful Project Managers will be able to make a significant impact in their organizations, in their projects, and in all walks of life.

5) The Golden Circle in Project Management

Being resourceful in your communications can tip the scales to project success. Consider that project management is 85% communication, and many projects fails because of communication issues. A major mistake by some project managers is overlooking the importance of communication. Resourcefully communicating on your project can be a determining factor for success. It can be a project manager's best friend or worst nightmare. I've recently published an article about the Golden Circle in Project management, where I proposed some tips to help adapt your project communication - check it out (Link here)!


Being resourceful is a mindset - it is the ability to think creatively and to foster an attitude of resourcefulness and stimulate, evaluate and act upon ideas that can benefit the process, result or goals of the team. This mindset enables a project team to be open, anticipatory, change-oriented in the face of harsh conditions. Although the project conditions may sometimes be daunting beyond belief, the Project Managers that live up for the challenge inspire others to do the same.

In the Sahara desert, even in difficult conditions, life can prevail, which is really quite inspiring. Project success favours those who are able to adjust to difficult project environments with limited resources enabling them to have project success in some of the harshest projects in the world and in today’s competitive business environment. Next time you’re going through a rough patch, think about the animals of the Sahara and how you can learn from their example to adapting in a place where there is very little water. It's time to evolve and adapt as Project Managers!

The Author : Kamil Mroz

About :
I am an award-winning project leader with director-level & site-leadership experience, strong communication skills and a strategic long-term view enabling the connection between strategy and operational execution.

I am driven and energized by coaching, mentoring and developing talents, while overcoming transversal organizational challenges. My experience in people management has enabled me to discover my passion for the leadership of intercultural, diverse and technical teams composed of both direct reports and cross-functional matrix project teams. I have been awarded global distinctions from both the largest PM organizations, IPMA and PMI for advanced project management expertise, strong team work, communication & leadership.

I owe my servant leadership approach to the time I have dedicated to social and volunteer-causes where I focused on several high-impact philanthropic projects in Europe. I am also proud to have also been the first ever student to be awarded the Young Alumni of the Year by the Faculty of Engineering from the University of Ottawa and I also Chair of the ISPE BeNeLux Steerco on Project Management.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post