Project management professionals know how to plan for project glitches and they’re skilled at developing effective contingency plans, but sometimes events happen outside the Project Team that spark panic internally. Don’t let the unexpected block your team’s path to success. Even if these four scenarios seem outside your control, there are steps you can take to help everyone continue moving forward in the face of the unknown.
A key team member leaves. Whether it’s a senior mentor or someone with valuable niche experience, Project Teams may risk dips in productivity and morale when essential members exit the organization. Not only might the rest of the team wonder how outstanding action items will be addressed, they could also be pondering if the shakeup is a sign the Project Team or its parent organization are having difficulties, or if a career-affecting reorganization is in the works.
Tips: Have succession plans (even if they’re informal) in place for key members of the project team. Ensure that knowledge transfer happens on an ongoing basis through mentoring or similar programs, and identify backup and secondary personnel to receive training on critical skills. Identify external experts you can call on if necessary.
A primary stakeholder drops support for a project. This can happen for any number of reasons—their group’s focus shifts, market pressures cause them to adjust their priorities, etc.—but if it’s a key stakeholder that’s left the project, it may cause panic within the Project Team. Are other stakeholders considering following suit? Will budget approvals be more difficult to obtain? Can this project survive?
Tips: Broaden support for your team by working to cultivate strong relationships with all stakeholders in a project, not just those individuals who wield the most influence within the organization. If one supporter leaves, immediately contact the remaining stakeholder groups to discuss the situation and develop plans for addressing any pending requests that may be affected.
A high-profile project suffers a setback. The project may have been canceled or simply postponed, or maybe its funding was cut due to outside factors. Regardless of the reason, the derailment of any high-profile project is sure to raise concerns across the team. Members may be worried about everything from how this will affect workloads to whether their job is in jeopardy.
Tips: Communication is your team’s greatest ally in these situations. Quickly alert everyone involved and pull the group together to begin assessing what this means to the Project Team in terms of staffing, budgets, and which impacts are likely to extend outside the organization. In addition, it’s prudent to immediately gather status updates on other active and pending projects. This will help you to reassign staff and other resources appropriately and keep the team on track with the rest of their achievables.
A crucial supplier goes out of business or is acquired. The business world is always evolving. Companies grow and shrink, merge and dissolve. For Project Teams, this can lead to anxiety when it happens to a valuable partner whose services or supplies are integral to project success. Team members are likely to wonder how they’ll keep projects on track when a primary resource disappears.
Tips: It’s vital that project teams have a good understanding of the competitive landscape among their top-level business partners. Labor disruptions and material shortages are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to pressures that can have downstream effects on the Project Team. Know which providers offer similar services and who has expertise in your particular market segment. Have current contact information on hand for your suppliers’ nearest competitors ahead of time, so you aren’t scrambling if an unanticipated change occurs.