Now, what about everyone else on the team? Are they expendable? Probably not – sometimes even less so than the project manager. A key technical resource on the project may be the only one of it’s kind in the organization. Irreplaceable. Not likely, but possible. Most of the time they’ll be like the situation of a team losing their star running back. If he goes down with an injury, you can still have a team by replacing him, but probably not as effective a team as you had before.
Now, suppose you have to replace a key resource while the project is in progress. How do you deal with such a major change at mid-stream on your project? What strategies do you incorporate? What do you take into consideration? For me, I generally look at the following list of concerns….
- How will it affect the comfort level of your project customer?
- How will it affect the remaining team members?
- Will this move affect the project budget? Positively or negatively?
- What do you do to reassign the outgoing resource’s tasks?
- Is there another resource available with the right skills?
These are all real concerns, but if you are at the point where you have to replace the resource and you have no other choice, then you just have to move forward….grin and bear at as they say. When that is the case – and it has happened to me (once on one day’s notice) - then there are some key steps to follow to make the transition go as smoothly as possible and keep the customer satisfaction as high as possible. For me, these are…
Take it to the customer project sponsor
The first thing to do is to inform the project customer that a change will be made. We’re assuming here that it is a high-profile resource on the team so there’s no easy way to do this without the customer feeling a great deal of impact. Take it to the customer, explain the situation and outline with them the steps you are taking to find the right replacement. This is all about the comfort level and confidence level of the customer.
Work with management on the resource replacement
If you’re working in a matrix organization, then someone takes the resource requests and turns them into real resources. You must work closely with that person to find the right resource because you’re not dealing with a new project – you’re dealing with a customer who has an existing relationship with a key resource you are losing and you’re in grave danger of losing a lot of customer confidence if the transition is handled poorly. Work with this resource manager to get the right resource as quickly as possible.
Move forward with the transition
How you onboard the resource can sometimes be as important as the resource itself. It’s best if you can slowly transition with the new resource shadowing the outgoing resource for 2-3 weeks. This is usually the best way to keep customer satisfaction at its highest. If this is not possible, then the weight of taking over tasks and transitioning the new resource into the project successful falls to the project manager and the rest of the team. However it’s going to be done, the key is to be open and honest with the customer about how the transition will be taking place and who will be responsible for the outgoing resource’s tasks during the transition. At this point, over-inform, rather than under-inform, the customer.
That’s the path I follow. How about our readers? Have you worked in a matrixed organization where you’ve lost a key resource to a new, mission critical project that just had to have your resource’s skill set? How did you react? What strategies did you incorporate to make it go as smoothly as possible? And how well did it go? Let’s hear your thoughts and discuss. Thanks.