IPMA Global PM Days, 29th and 30th of May 2021
Keynote titel: The right thing at the right time! Insights into my project management toolbox


How to do the right thing at the right time
8 ways to promote resourcefulness in projects

To lead a project successfully means to know and to anticipate several influencing factors and to set them in relation to the desired goal.
One key competence that helps to manage projects is resourcefulness.
Resourcefulness means thinking and acting in a variety of ways, not only for the project management, but also for the project team. Therefore, one task of the project management is to make this skill understandable and to establish it within the team.

Definition of resourcefulness

What does this term mean? Resourcefulness is “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. It often requires thinking and acting in original and imaginative ways and stimulating the creativity of individuals and the collective creativity of the team. Resourcefulness is useful when risks, problems and difficult situations arise.”¹
Resourcefulness is one of 29 competence elements in The International Project Management Association´s (IPMA) standards. It is part of the „People“ competence elements.
Resourcefulness is not a given talent. It is the result of exchange, experience and knowledge of methods. It is an important task of project managers to provide their own knowledge to the team and to increase its capabilities to act resourceful.
In the following I want to discuss eight tools to promote and establish resourcefulness in project teams.

They are easy to integrate into the workflow and can help to do the right thing at the right time:

1 The keychain
Create an open, trustworthy environment

Team members often do not or just rarely know each other at the start of a project, or they enter with prejudices. In these situations, teambuilding is critical, it can already be decisive whether a project succeeds or fails.

A playful opener like the “Keychain Game” is very helpful for a successful project start: all team members show their keychains and explain what the keys are here for. Everyone tells something about themselves and the group members get to know each other better. The more they find out, the more the members will find trust and solidarity within the team.

The Keychain Game can be used for teams who meet for the first time as well as for groups which have already worked together.

2 The picture frame
Draw the Big Picture

To reach a project goal it is necessary that the team develops a common understanding of this goal, the so-called “Big Picture”. As soon as the group has understood and agreed on it, it will work together more efficiently to bring the project to the desired result.

One important aspect when creating the Big Picture is complexity. Depending on the situation, project managers reduce the complexity of a topic or increase it.
On the one hand complexity can be reduced by clustering things, putting them in structure, simplify or sort them by different criteria. You can do this by creating project plans or summarising results of (brainstorming-)meetings.
Increasing complexity on the other hand can be achieved by digging into details, asking specific questions, applying brainstorming methods or elaborating dependencies.
Most of the time, both types are used in combination.
Please consider as well that complexity is noticed individually. What is complex for one person does not have to be for the other.

3 The graph
Ease decisions

Graphs and diagrams are a way to provide a holistic view of a project and its context. They serve as a visualisation of the targets, the project status and its progress for the team and other stakeholders. They also ease decisions.
Additionally, they are a tool for project managers to focus on specific aspects of a project which deserve special attention.
In diagrams the same content can be displayed in different ways. BurnUp- and BurnDown-graphs are a good example: a BurnUp-graph shows an increasing line and this sums up what has already been delivered. BurnDown-graphs show a decreasing line, they display what is still left.
Which graph fits better to motivate the team, to focus its view on the Big Picture and to work out a decision? Resourceful project manager will decide individually, depending on the situation and the target group.

4 The opposite arrows
Steer motivation

Motivation drives us to reach targets. However, each person is motivated by different reasons. Being aware of these reasons helps a lot to inspire the team members to aim for a goal.
Some of us are motivated by external factors, others internally. Another concept says that there are different motivation types existing, the “towards”-motivation and the “away from”-motivation. Persons who are the “towards”-motivation type are striving for a future situation or goal which is worth achieving. They know where they want to go. “Away from” types want to get away from a situation they feel uncomfortable with, they want to avoid this situation in future.
Around 40 percent of people are more “towards”-motivated and also around 40 percent are “away from” types. 20 percent can handle both. By listening to your team members you can easily find out more about their motivation type.

5 The calendar
Design time properly

Projects are always time-bound. Therefore, presenting the schedule in a proper way is a decisive issue. There are a lot of ways to visualize a project timeline. And there is not the one right way to do so.
But which design of the time schedule fits best? A bar chart, a classical timeline, a milestone plan, a list of deadlines or a phase plan?
It depends on the target group: the management often prefers a visualisation that gives a quick overview, IT developers and technicians are more interested in details and interdependencies.
Providing the right plan for the right target group shows competence of resourcefulness. So please be flexible and think about the goal you want to achieve with a plan.

6 The sailboat
Analyse the situation

Resourcefulness also means situation analysis. A very flexible method for it is the “Sailboat Game”. It is often used for retrospectives in the agile world, but I like to use it also in very different situations.
A picture of a sailboat is the basis for this method, the boat visualises a certain project or topic. Now the team identifies crucial parameters, for example supportive drivers, like wind is for a sailboat. The team also identifies factors that prevent the topic or project from moving forward, like an anchor does. There are no limits for creativity, you can add more paraments to the picture like a riff (for risks), a sun (for opportunities) or an island (for goals).
In drawing the sailboat picture, a lot of (hidden) aspects can be visualised. I also like this method because it is a good opportunity to put experts in charge and catch their points of view.

7 The hat
Change the perspective

To find new and creative opportunities and solutions with the team, easy resources like post-its, a flipchart or a timeframe will probably be enough. Project managers can also change the team´s daily routine, provide a project room or block time in meetings.
If these easy resources are not successful, a method will be needed. A nice and popular method to enable creativity is Edward de Bono´s “Six Thinking Hats”.
The six hats stand for several different perspectives you can find within a project or topic. While putting one hat on, the team members look upon the project from a specific role. After this, everyone changes the hat and with the hat also the role. With this method, each one leaves its own point of view automatically and creativity will be enabled.²

8 The question mark
Understand others and take care

One very important tool for resourcefulness are questions. Our own point of view defines our acting and our behaviour. To be able to consider other people’s opinions, we need to be aware of them. We can do so by asking questions.
In most cases we will be able to ask someone directly. If this is not possible it is useful to put ourselves in the other person´s position to answer the question in the other´s point of view.
Asking questions is a very simple method, which is unfortunately forgotten too often. But in doing so, we will be able to understand different perspectives and we will keep our flexibility to do the right thing at the right time.


These methods can upgrade our toolbox, enlarge flexibility and strengthen resourcefulness. As a team, we only can reach our goals together.
For me resourcefulness means understanding and respect in the first place. I am always striving for common understanding in a team and best fitting methods to reach the best possible results.

Please get in touch for further inputs, I am looking forward to productive exchange!


Sources and links:
¹ International Project Management Association (IPMA), Individual Competence Baseline for Project Management, Version 4.0, 2015, p. 100
² See also: https://www.ideenfindung.de/id-6-thinking-hats.html

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