You’ve assembled your Project team or you had it assigned to you. You’ve kicked the project off (Phase 1 – Project Kickoff), and you’re on to Phase 2 (Exploration) or Phase 3 (Design) and now you’re running into unexpected issues – your very own project personnel. Let’s look at this potential issue as it can take on many forms.
The Origins of Resource Issues
Project resources issues can occur for a variety of reasons:
- Voluntarily leave the company for another job
- Poor performance on the project
- Removed from the project at the customer’s request
- Moved to a project where their expertise is needed
All of these happen…all are important…and all can greatly affect your project’s success and ultimately customer satisfaction. Let’s briefly look at each one and how best to handle each situation while keeping the goal of project success in mind.
Voluntarily Leave the Company
You’re coasting along and then you get the news that one of your key resources is leaving the company. It’s never easy to lose a resource, but it’s even harder if they were a good performer and decided to go elsewhere. Make the best of it and work with the outgoing resources manager to acquire a skilled replacement and have their time on the project overlap to allow for at least 1-2 weeks of knowledge transfer.
No one gets fired over a long period of time. They get called into a room, or called on the phone (who knows…maybe they even get a text message these days) and then their gone. As the PM, you’re not going to get advanced notice of losing this resource. Once you’ve learned of the situation, work with the manager overseeing that resource pool and negotiate a skilled replacement.
There’s a good chance that the customer wasn’t very satisfied with this person and may have even been the reason they were let go in the first place, so it may not be a big surprise to them. However, assume nothing and call a meeting with the customer to both break the news and introduce the replacement. Get all relevant docs to the replacement quickly so they’re at least partially up to speed by the time you have your next formal status meeting.
Poor Performance on the Project
You have someone – a developer, data specialist, business analyst…someone on your delivery team who is not performing well. They may just be a poor performer or they may be so engaged on another – possibly more visible – project that they are falling behind on deliverables and tasks for your project. That happened to me on a project for a major airline. You’d think that would be a critical project, but somehow I couldn’t get my resource to do anything on time due to his heavy involvement on another project that was at a critical point.
Before the customer starts seeing themselves as second-class citizens, explain the conflict and get a skilled replacement and work the transition in the same way you would for the employee who leaves the company for another job.
In the case where you simply have a poor performer, go to the resource’s manager and discuss it. Determine as quickly as possible whether together you can turn it around or whether the resource needs to be replaced on the project. If the decision is to replace the resource, explain this to the customer and get a skilled replacement in place and up to speed prior to the next formal status meeting. In this case, there likely won’t be any transitional time with the removed resource.
Removed at Customer’s Request
This is going to be very similar to the poor performer and possibly even the fired employee. The customer saw it coming, had a hand in it happening, and is ready for the change. Get the highest skilled replacement possible and bring them up to speed prior to the next formal status meeting with the customer. In this scenario, there won’t be any transitional phase or knowledge transfer from the removed resource so you’ll have to make the best of it.
Moved to Another Project
This is similar to the scenario above where my resource on the airline project was bogged down with work on another project that had reached a more critical phase in its timeline. Here, a new, more visible project has come up with some unique requirements that only your resource can fill. Again, you’re going to be facing a customer who will now feel like they are second-class citizens. Therefore, negotiate the most skilled replacement possible and mandate at least a 2-week transitional phase for knowledge transfer and overlap. This is going to lead to the least amount of customer frustration.
Changing resources in mid-project is never the best thing. It either causes problems or is happening because there already are problems. As the PM, you have to make the best of it and always stand up for your project and your customer to the best of your ability. This usually means negotiating hard for the best possible replacement. Then, rally the delivery team around them and get them up to speed as quickly as possible so that they’re ready to hit the ground running at the next formal status meeting with the customer.