Delivering with Limited Resources
Everyone has a routine – it’s how we approach life. When you walk into the office on a Monday morning, your day is probably already mapped out – coffee as a high priority, review your emails, attend some meetings and then begin to tackle the work of the week. This becomes routine, it becomes habit, it becomes…. comfortable.
But what about when things become uncomfortable?
Suddenly, your manager tasks you with running a crucial project, but there is only limited budget available and an urgent timeline – nothing but success will be accepted.
Or perhaps a central server goes down and users can’t make mobile phone calls. The customer is demanding that you do anything possible to get services back up – there is no time to replace the server and you must act quickly.
This wasn’t part of the routine! Whilst these scenarios are different, they do have one thing in common: limitation of resources.
Delivering results with limited resources is something everyone faces at some point in their career. The ability to quickly adjust and still deliver is an important professional skill.
Our world of telecommunications is fast – very fast. Radio waves travel at the speed of light and new technology being released daily – just staying relevant is a difficult task! As a global leader, the heart of Ericsson is to be dynamic and adaptive. Leadership means setting the pace – network quality, customer expectations – but it also comes with extra pressure to maintain that leadership in a competitive business climate.
As Integration Manager for a large Australian mobile customer, I manage an engineering team based both locally and globally. When establishing the team, I faced many challenges in terms of cultural differences, remote staff management, time constraints and upskilling the team for the latest technology. As a member of the Ericsson Response team, I have been in situations on mission where the United Nations required urgent help, though I was isolated and had limited tools available. Drawing on these experiences, I’d like to share with you some key tips to be successful when faced with a limitation of resources.
Good communication is fundamental to good business. An important communication tool we use at Ericsson is weekly governance meetings. Attended by the internal project stakeholders (Project Management, finance, supply, OH&S etc.), it is in this forum that potential project issues are raised and tracked through to resolution.
- Be upfront and clear about the what issue is
- Not enough staff, not enough budget, time constraints etc.
- Missed deadline, reduced capability etc.
- Adjusted scope, allocation of additional budget, updated deadlines
That last point – a proposed solution – is very important! It is easy to criticise or raise concerns about project challenges, but good leaders do everything possible to still achieve success. Show your team that you see the bigger picture and are focussed on overcoming challenges rather than being stopped by them.
Assess & Make a Plan
Focus on what you do have and what can still be delivered. A plan will help set the direction for you and your team, and give confidence to your management.
Some example problems and solutions could be:
- Problem: Sudden increase in workload.
Solution: Maximise the strengths of available staff. Initially assign support requests only to new or experienced members. Seniors engineers are then available to help with escalations from the rest of the team. Helps the team cope with the workload, maintain quality, and more quickly develop their competency (keep in mind, this method may not work for all projects).
- Problem: Low on staff members.
Solution Integration means supporting technicians in the field. Look at when the quiet periods are perhaps reduced open support hours to maximize the team that’s available.
- Problem:Budget constraints.
Solution: Prioritise deliverables into “must haves” versus the “wants”; remove anything possible from the “must haves” list to make the project run smoothly and adhere to the financial restrictions. Get approval from management for a reduced scope and ensure the budget was able to cover the major criteria.
If you are concerned with delivering projects on time, consider making two lists, one to show the request and the other for what can actually be delivered. From there you can devise a plan and communicate what the reality, timeline and budget are with your team and client.
There are 3 groups of people whose expectations you’ll need to manage with clear communication:
- Your customers
Maybe you can’t reveal everything to them, but you certainly can let them know if there are going to be delays, or the service or product is different to what they are expecting.
- Your management and colleagues
Keep in mind, they are in the same situation as you; they too must prioritize and make decisions. It is through them you may gain access to additional resources or extra support as needed.
Be honest on your own capabilities. Don’t try and put everything on your shoulders or try and hide issues. Commit to what you can, but look for extra help when needed.
Be the Example
Those around you will often be looking to you for guidance and leadership, so make sure your actions and attitude are exemplary.
Communicate verbally and non-verbally. Be open with your team about the situation at hand. Don’t just tell them what needs to get done, but also show them that you are working hard. Reward efficiency, good work and motivate to inspire others as well.
Ericsson has a policy of flexible working hours. If team members need to work long or irregular hours, simple things like coming in later the next day, extra days off or still meeting personal commitments goes a long way to keeping them motivated, and showing their time is valued.
Your team will act as you lead. If you look stressed, tired or show your frustration, you will notice your team function in a similar way. They will also start to lose confidence in you as a leader and become resentful. Stay calm and approachable to ensure that the team morale stays high.
At the end of the day, if you have prioritized and best utilized your resources, been open and upfront with your stakeholders, and worked hard to deliver to the best of your capabilities, you are best positioned for success.
It is this approach that has kept Ericsson in business for over 130 years and allows us to continuously evolve. In just the last five years, our company has transformed from a traditional telecom vendor into a globally leading ICT player. In such a fast-paced environment, just what the future holds is hard to say, but without doubt, there will be new challenges and times where resources are limited. Rest assured though – we’ll be ready for them.
Until next time,