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How Can I Evaluate a Project Resource's Reliability?

written by: Ronda Bowen • edited by: Marlene Gundlach • updated: 3/14/2012

This article is part three of a five part series answering project management questions. This article discusses how to evaluate resource reliability when assigning tasks.

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    Picture courtesy of Stock.xchng Will Joe deliver that thirty-two page report in two weeks?Is Kathleen going to program 50 lines of code today?Will George call in “sick" again?These are questions savvy project managers want answered when scheduling resources to tasks. Unreliable resources contribute to project failure.How can a project manager, judge a resource’s reliability?

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    The Interview Process

    The interview process brings out the best in a person. Like a first date, a person most commonly will put on their best front. Unfortunately, like a first date, what you see isn’t always what you get. Many colleges and universities offer interview coaching to assist students entering the workforce. Just because someone looks like a dream candidate from their resume and interview doesn’t mean they are a good fit for your company. Follow up on references. Ask former employers (and professors) whether the candidate was reliable. Unless they really stood out (calling in sick habitually, showing up late regularly, not making progress on company tasks), often this isn’t a subject references will think of. Also, trust instincts here. If something rubs you the wrong way or seems too good to be true, chances are, it is.

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    Past Performance

    Chances are, if George calls in sick at least once a week (on Monday no less), this is something you can count on. If Mary regularly takes two hour long lunches then this isn’t likely to stop. If Kathleen turns in 50 lines of code but 45 of them need to be reworked due to minor errors – you get the picture. Past performance can be a huge indicator of future performance in a company – especially when no intervention has occurred. People are creatures of habit. Don’t assign that thirty-two page report to Joe if he dropped the ball on the last three reports he was assigned.

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    Office Interaction

    Perhaps you haven’t worked with Joe or Kathleen on a project before, but you have interacted with them enough to know that most times when you stop by Joe’s desk, he scuttles to hide a book he was reading. Kathleen always seems to be on the phone. When you see Mary, she is diligently working. She has said to you that she works hard so that she can have lunch with her kids and husband before returning to finish her work. Moreover, she has a reputation for finishing tasks early and accurately. These interactions shouldn’t be taken lightly as they can predict the performance of team members on your project.

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    Annual Reviews

    So you haven’t worked with Linda at all. Nor have you interacted with her (in fact, you have no clue who she is, but she’s been assigned to your team). What should you do here? One thing you can do is find out about her annual review. Large companies will evaluate employee reliability and productivity on an annual or semi-annual basis. If reviews are available to you, then this can be a valuable resource before you decide to assign a high-priority task. If they are not available to you, you can talk to their previous supervisor or project manager to determine what they are capable of before assigning tasks.

Five Great Project Questions

This article series looks at five great project questions: Does a Project Charter Include a Scope Statement? How do I know the planning phase is complete? How can I evaluate a resource's reliability? What metrics are best for project management? and What do you do when the client wants it now?
  1. Project Charters vs. Scope Statements
  2. How Do I Know the Project Planning Phase is Complete?
  3. How Can I Evaluate a Project Resource's Reliability?
  4. Best Metrics for Project Management
  5. Clients and Deadlines - How to Handle Deadline Change Requests

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