Passing the #PMP Exam: Tools & Techniques—Human Resources Knowledge Area

1. Introduction

In this next series of posts, we move onto step 5, which is memorizing the TOOLS & TECHNIQUES associated with each process. In order to breakdown the memorizing into more bite-size chunks, I am going to break down this topic into at least 9 posts, one for each knowledge area. (There may be some knowledge areas that require more than one post.)

This post covers chapter 9 of the PMBOK® Guide, which covers the Human Resources Knowledge Area. This knowledge area contains 4 processes, the first of which is in the Planning Process Group, and the last three of which are in the Executing Process Group.

As a reminder, Human Resources Knowledge Area is the only knowledge area not to have a process in the Monitoring & Controlling Process Group.

Here’s a description of the four processes that are included in the Human Resources Knowledge Area, together with a listing of the Tools & Techniques used in those processes.

Number & Name
Process Description Tools & Techniques
9.1 Develop Human Resources Plan Identifying project roles and responsibilities, create staffing management plan. 1. Organizational charts and position descriptions

2. Networking

3. Organizational Theory


9.2 Acquire Project Team Confirming human resource availability and obtaining team. 1. Pre-assignment

2. Negotiation

3. Acquisition

4. Virtual teams

9.3 Develop Project Team Improving team interaction and team environment. 1. Interpersonal skills

2. Training

3. Team-building skills

4. Ground rules

5. Co-location

6. Recognition and rewards


9.4 Manage Project Team Optimizing team performance by tracking member performance, resolving conflicts, providing feedback. 1. Observation and conversation

2. Project performance appraisals

3. Conflict management

4. Issue log

5. Interpersonal skills

Let’s take a look at the tools & techniques for the 4 processes 9.1 through 9.4 in the Human Resources Knowledge Area.


9.1.1. Organizational charts and position descriptions

This is a natural tool you would expect a human resources plan to include. This specifies the roles and responsibilities of the various team members. Here are three types of charts or formats these roles and responsibilities can be specified in.

Chart or format type Chart of format description
1. Hierarchical-type charts Traditional organization chart structure
2. Matrix-based charts Responsibility assignment matrix (RAM), an example of which is RACI (responsible, accountable, consult, and inform). This is a RAM in which the roles mentioned as the letters of the acronym RACI are specified for each team member.
3. Text-oriented formats This is used as a template for future projects more often than it is used on an active project.

9.1.2. Networking

This is simply formal and informal interaction within an organization. This is important for a project manager to do not only at a beginning of a project, but also during the course of the project as well.

9.1.3. Organizational Theory

This gives information on how people, teams, and organizational units behave and what motivates them the most.


9.2.1. Pre-assignment

Team members can be either be pre-assigned if their assignments are specified within the project charter during the initiating process. Otherwise their assignments are negotiated during the planning process.

9.2.2. Negotiation

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, if functional managers (in a matrix-type organization) have control over the assignment of certain team members, a project manager may have to negotiate with that functional manager to use these team members for a certain duration on the project.

9.2.3. Acquisition

In case certain expertise on the project is not available within the organization, the project manager may have to negotiate with the human resources department to acquire team members on a temporary basis as consultants for the purpose of the project.

9.2.4. Virtual teams

If the company has several locations in a country, employees may have to meet via a video conference rather than face-to-face. However, losing the face-to-face component of interactions may require a project manager to make sure that nothing gets “lost in the translation” to a virtual environment.


9.3.1. Interpersonal skills

These are the soft skills that a project manager can use to increase cooperation. Nowadays, these interpersonal skills are styled as part of “emotional intelligence”.


9.3.2. Training

These are the hard skills or knowledge and experience-based skills that a project manager must either ensure that his team members have or develop during the course of the project.

9.3.3. Team-building skills

Even for those that are experienced with projects, it is important to build a team from the start of a project because that particular group of people may not have worked with all members before. Here are the five stages of development of a team:

Stage name Stage description
1. Forming Team meets and learns about details of the project and what everybody’s roles and responsibilities are.
2. Storming Team discusses project work, decisions of a technical nature, and matters dealing with management of the project. This needs to be done in an open or collaborative mode.
3. Norming Team members begin to actually work together and adjust to each other’s’ work habits. The team starts to knit together into a cohesive unit.
4. Performing Now the team is ideally working as a well-organized unit.
5. Adjourning Team completes work and disbands.

9.3.4. Ground rules

Ground rules are established for interactions among project team members; this is extremely important in the conducting of team meetings, so that the meetings are productive.

9.3.5. Co-location

Active members are located in the same physical location for as much of the project as feasible. This could be as simple as providing a team meeting room, or locating all of the team members in the same section of the facility. This is opposed to the usage of virtual teams.

9.3.6. Recognition and rewards

This is an important way to motivate team members to encourage them to work hard, both individually and together, on the project.


9.4.1. Observation and conversation

This is why networking is an effective tool not just in the planning phase, but during the entire execution of the project. This is the most genuine way of getting information on the progress of team members, and is more personal than just e-mailing members to distribute or obtain information.

9.4.2. Project performance appraisals

This is when a project manager sits down with team members from time to time and goes over any issues that may need to be resolved, to clarify future goals, or to recognize and reward those who have achieved previously set goals.

9.4.3. Conflict management

Team members themselves should have responsibility for resolving conflicts among themselves. However, if the conflict escalates, project managers need to be able to help team members who have a conflict with each other to reach an amicable resolution of their conflict. There are six general techniques for resolving conflict.

Technique Description
1. Withdrawing/


Having one or another team member avoid the other with whom the conflict occurs. Not really practicable.
2. Smoothing/


Having team members emphasize areas of agreement rather than the areas of difference. This attempts to change the attitude of the team members, but does not resolve the area of agreement.
3. Compromising Team members each gain part of what they wanted; this could be interpreted as a win-win or lose-lose situation depending on the team members’ attitudes.
4. Forcing The project manager imposes a solution on the team members. This is a win-lose situation which is effective in the short run, but creates attitude problems in the long run (resentment).
5. Collaborating Getting other team members’ opinions on possible solutions to the conflict.
6. Confronting/
Problem Solving
Often collaborating is the first step towards solving the problem by examining both team members’ perspectives. This can generate a win-win situation for team members IF they are open to this technique.

9.4.4. Issue log

If there is a conflict, an issue log can be used to document not only the conflicts that arise, but also their resolution. This is particularly helpful for updating lessons learned on the project.

9.4.5 Interpersonal skills

Leadership through example, and the ability to influence team members over which the project manage may not have direct responsibility (as in a matrix-type organization) are important skills for a project manager to have.

The next post will be on the Tools & Techniques associated with chapter 10 of the PMBOK® Guide dealing with the Communications Knowledge Area.


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