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The human challenge

Some challenges in daily project business are almost negligible as "background noise", others require advanced project competence to master. And then there is the biggest and least controllable challenge - the human being. Why is human resource planning in projects so difficult - and does it have to be daily chaos? After all, the daily routine in project management is often enough to make one tear one's hair out. Why is reliable planning and functioning resource allocation actually so difficult? Is it really better if projects are less influenced by people? And why is "approximately" often more realistic than "exactly"?

We look at project management challenges, planning and how the ability to plan accurately can greatly simplify project management.

Obvious challenges

These can be understood as aspects that are obvious to everyone in project management when planning has to be done in a coordinated way with several people.

These include:

A common free time must be found in which everyone has sufficient working time available. This is difficult enough in meetings. In addition, the right people must be available, i.e. the people must have the necessary skills to do the work.

Another important component is the dependencies of the work. Some people can only start their work when other people have finished their step. Everything together is limited by conditions such as time and quantity. One cannot work endlessly on something, no matter what the effort, but must have finished one's work at a certain, even if not precisely defined, point in time.

This time and / or the amount of work is often predetermined, not infrequently by people who cannot even estimate the quantity and time for a task properly.

Increased challenges

The next level of influencing factors is not as obvious:

People in companies are sometimes simply not there. They are on holiday, on parental leave or sick. Some of these absences are predictable, like summer holidays. Others are difficult or impossible to predict, like accidents or illness.

Another problem is the fact that between the time of planning and the time of starting work, the task may change. This can be triggered, for example, by a client changing his mind. Or by new knowledge gained in the meantime that has an impact on the original work plan.

In such cases, the original plan has to be adjusted, which may mean that the entire work chain has to be changed. Such a change of plan can be as costly as the original planning.

The biggest challenge - the human

Humans are not "programmed" to be able to predict the future accurately. They don't have to and didn't have to for a long time.

In early times, people lived as hunter-gatherers in a quasi-agile manner. Later - in the age of agriculture and livestock breeding - it was the seasons that practically dictated very rough planning. Temperature and daylight determined the timing.

In the industrial age, under the dictates of the clock, the number of pieces to be produced and the time for the individual work steps, work was done on a piecework basis and planned that way. That was not so difficult, even without computers. Because the time needed for a work step was known, the processes were always the same and there was always light. The work sequence, the delivery of the parts and the automation could be optimised further and further in detail. The activities were monotonous for the individuals, but predictable and measurable for the company.

However, even then there was work that was not subject to this model - namely research and development. Here, work could not and was not done on a piecework basis. Other aspects such as creativity and chance were decisive in these "projects", which brings us to today.

Even if this does not apply across the board and absolutely to all projects and companies, it can be said that chord-like routine is rather rare. In many cases, each piece of work in a project is unique. This work has never been done before. This means that they are difficult to predict, both in terms of the time required and the amount of work and even the general feasibility. In addition, people today no longer work in a factory as they used to, in a repetitive step-by-step process. They are less specialised, but because of their increased qualifications they can do many completely different or even completely new jobs. With this qualification and the universal applicability of labour, the actual human factor also comes more to the fore: most people want stimulating work, which in this context is synonymous with variety. This aspiration varies from person to person and is influenced or overlaid by extra-occupational interests.

In the information age, it is more intellectual activities and concepts such as creativity, dynamism and ideas that make a job seem valuable, and the best among the employees want to be challenged and encouraged here, but not overtaxed.