resource management

There are many aspects of resource management that people who aren’t in the nitty gritty can’t quite wrap their heads around. Looking at some analogies can make the ideas a little more accessible. Here are 5 you can use the next time your boss isn’t quite clear on all of the intricacies of resource management.

1. Chess Grandmaster

A good chess player thinks about what moves her opponent might make during the next turn. A great chess player thinks a few moves ahead and devises a plan. A Grandmaster however, has more than just a strategy for the entire match; she has contingencies in place for when the tide shifts differently than she wanted it to.

A resource manager needs to think like a Grandmaster. She needs to be not just a few moves ahead, but ready for almost anything. A Grandmaster has a plan for each piece, from pawn to king, and adjusts it as the game progresses. Likewise, in resource management, you create a plan and adjust it when projects are in need of different talents than you originally planned for.

The difference is that while a Grandmaster has a definite start and end frame, resource management does not. There are new projects starting up regularly and no lack of complexity to the situation. There is no checkmate in resource management, only forging ahead.

2. Matchmaker

A matchmaker might be a slightly antiquated idea, but it is a valid analogy nonetheless. Your resource management is more than just placing people in projects; it’s finding the right staff member for each role to make sure the projects progress smoothly.

You need to be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of each team member. They need to collaborate well and complement each other’s strengths. Just as a matchmaker needs to be able to anticipate the relationship before it begins, so must a resource manager. It’s just a different arena with a few more moving parts than a matchmaker might need to worry about. Rather than matching two in the relationship, you’ve got a whole team to contend with.

Regardless of the number of people in play, the analogy still stands. You need to use your knowledge and observations of the people in question to match them up wisely.

3. Air Traffic Control

Similar to a chess player, an air traffic controller needs to keep a lot of different pieces of information in mind at once. The difference between the analogies is that a chess player only has to worry about the game pieces, while air traffic control involves complex equations to keep in mind. This is similar to resource management where you’ve got many different parts of the puzzle that need to fit together properly, and you’ll need to be able to recall the important parameters to be involved.

Air traffic control keeps planes in the air. Resource management keeps projects running smoothly. If an air traffic controller is forgetful or absentminded, then that messes up the entire system. Similarly, if you’re using resources ineffectively, that can cascade from one project to the next. You need to be able to zoom out and see the entire view at once, but also know where each resource is at any given moment. Just like planes in the sky.

4. Jenga

A Jenga puzzle is simple at the beginning, where you just move one piece at a time without much thought for the next. But as more pieces are involved and rotated through, complexity increases exponentially. With resource management, you’re not at the start of Jenga, you’re right in the middle of gameplay. Every move impacts countless others, and if you’re not careful, sooner or later, the tower will topple.

In Jenga, You can’t think about which block you’re moving now and disregard how others are playing. You can make life easy for your opponents, or you can make it quite difficult, depending on what your play is. Obviously, within resource management, you’re not playing against anyone else, but the analogy still applies. It is about the big picture, what the next few moves are. Getting stuck in the here and now is a surefire way to create trouble for yourself down the road.

The difference between Jenga and resource management is the number of active players. Jenga has a handful around the table, each trying to outfox the other. When you’re laying out your plans for the future, it’s just you, so it’s important to keep on top of all the moves and pieces.

5. Coach

The final analogy is similar to the others in that it’s about how everyone works together. On a sports team, a coach has to know which players work well together. A smooth defensive maneuver between a guard and a center in basketball, or a well-planned passing play with a quarterback and a wide receiver in football, as examples. There is also a motivational consideration as well. A world-class coach can inspire the team before every game or match.

Carry this over to resource management. You need to know which staff members can perform each role and have an awareness of the groups that work better together, just like the players on a sports team. And you also need the ability to inspire the teams when a new project starts. Just like each sports team needs to get fired up before they meet an opponent.

It’s important to remember that all of these analogous roles rely on a large amount of data. And that’s very similar to resource management as well. You need to have decent data to support your decisions. Going with your gut might pay off once or twice, but that habit will be costly in the long run.

An easy way to incorporate more data into your decision-making process is with integrated technology. Track resource utilization through a project management software package, and then review the results on a regular basis. You can see whether the matchups and master plans you put into action are paying off or if they’ll need to be tweaked. And with a powerful software suite at your fingertips, making those changes will be simple.