The Magic Roundabout – Implementing the Right Resource Strategy

Establishing the right resource strategy is a key component of implementing an effective end-to-end change operating model.

The ultimate outcome is to get the right resources working on the right things – and doing so in the most efficient and cost effective manner.

Yet this simple objective often proves elusive or, at best, painful to achieve. Organisations commonly encounter a number of execution challenges, such as:

  • External resources performing key tasks that internal resources really should be doing – to drive the shape of the business, or to develop the right in-house skills
  • External resource being largely eradicated, meaning that the change portfolio becomes shaped by what is needed to keep the in-house change team busy, rather than what needs to be done
  • Lack of flexibility, so that the resource strategy doesn’t adjust in line with the organisational context and imperatives
  • Absence of a consistent strategy and integrated approach across Change, IT, HR, Finance, Sourcing and other involved stakeholder groups – resulting in confusion and unclear accountabilities and decision rights.

The result of these challenges is that many organisations fail to adopt a coherent, balanced approach.  Different stakeholders pursue incompatible agendas and decision making lurches between the needs of short-termism, rather than the long term needs of the business.

It can often feel like you are stuck on the infamous “magic-roundabout” – a complex, and now derided,  traffic scheme implemented by 1970s town to improve traffic flow. You know where you want to get to, but getting there is a haphazard experience – there are too many interventions, confusion reigns and you ultimately end up in the wrong place!

So, how do you address these challenges?  Is there a simple way of looking at the problem that reflects the true needs of the business and provides a balanced approach and a workable sense of direction?

Well, perhaps there is

Looking at the problem in a more structured way certainly has its benefits.  Knowing what skills you need and where you will get them from is key to achieving a number of outcomes – you can:

  • Determine the skills that will allow the business to differentiate itself, where innovation will have a game-changing effect
  • Identify the areas where there are opportunities to reduce the cost of change
  • Understand where flexible resourcing models will be required
  • Develop approach that provides delivery certainty and quality where is most required.

One way to look at the problem is to consider the two main dynamic influences:

The importance of the skill to the business

Is the skill ‘Core’ to business IP, differentiation and success, or is it more of a necessary ‘Commodity’?  For instance, knowledge of pricing and claims are core skills for an insurer, whilst knowledge of back-end HR and Finance processes is not

The volatility of resource demand

Is there a sustained level of demand for the skill, or is the demand more periodic – requiring greater flexibility in supply?

This then enables you to break the problem down in a more structured fashion, as illustrated below.


Project One Magic Roundabout graphic RGB

Mapping each of your main skills competencies to the model above then helps you to determine a directionally correct resource strategy:

  • For core skills, where there is a sustained resource demand, the focus should be on developing in-house skills through recruitment, re-training and retention initiatives
  • For core skills, where demand is more unpredictable, the focus should be on securing relationships with trusted third parties to act on your behalf, providing flexible resourcing when you need it – e.g. transformation programme delivery
  • Where skills are more of a commodity, but demand is sustained and predictable, there are opportunities to establish cost effective sourcing/augmentation relationships with suitable suppliers
  • Where skills are commoditised, but demand is volatile, then flexible, cost-effective resourcing options should be pursued – e.g. use of day rate contactors.

Once populated, this framework can provide a common point of reference for all impacted stakeholder groups, providing the opportunity for a more integrated approach, for instance:

  • Reflecting in practice development objectives – e.g. for project managers, business analysts etc.
  • Mirroring the principles of the framework in HR competency development, talent management and rewards plans
  • Adhering to the framework in resourcing, sourcing and supplier management discussions
  • Integrating into the governance oversight formed by executive PMO functions – e.g. managing supply demand, managing the cost of change.

The “Magic Roundabout” of resourcing is a frustrating place to be – it can easily feel like you are going nowhere, and not particularly quickly.

If you want to get off, you need a new approach.

POSTED BY: David Knappett - Consulting Director


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