Project Management: Downsizing Your Project Team

Project Teams can face downsizing efforts for a variety of reasons, including budget reductions and the loss of key business partnerships. No matter the cause, Project Team scale-backs can have long-lasting effects on team productivity, morale, and individual performance. By following some baseline principles, you can help lessen the negative impacts and keep your team functioning at its best.

Distribute information early. Share the news with your project management consulting team as soon as you’ve received approval to do so. This will give folks time to come to grips with the new plan, and work through their feelings and concerns. If you don’t know exactly what the future holds—either because the information hasn’t been released, or because the full plan hasn’t yet been formulated—let your team know where your knowledge of the situation ends. It’s difficult to move forward if your project management team feels you’re withholding critical information.

Acknowledge fears and concerns. Transitions are difficult, and your Project Team is likely to face some uncertainties moving forward. Don’t insult the team by painting a problem-free picture. Instead, discuss the functions that will be left open by departing members, and review any immediate effects your projects will experience. You’ll not only help your remaining team members feel a closer sense of camaraderie by tackling a difficult situation together, you’ll also be publicly acknowledging the value of those leaving the group.

Offer support where appropriate. Work with your human resources team to provide letters of recommendation for employees scheduled to be terminated, and network with colleagues in other companies to let them know you have coworkers who are in need of new opportunities. If departing team members have a period of transition before their employment in your group ends, there may be outplacement support available. Allow them the time necessary to attend workshops, such as those on job search techniques, and to interview with potential employers.

Once the plans have been disseminated and personnel issues worked through, it’s time to look at continuing your Project Team’s success into the future.

Evaluate remaining personnel. If you’re losing folks with specific skill sets, determine who among your remaining members may be able to fill the gap. Look for areas of expertise, education, and certification. Determine where opportunities exist to shuffle or reassign personnel to better leverage the expertise that remains. Now is also the time to identify who can handle additional responsibility, who’s capable of stretching to the next level of performance, and who’s a good candidate for mentoring.

Look for growth opportunities. Investigate the options available to bolster your team’s skills and education. Where can you focus your project management training budget for the best benefit? Which skills will be the most sorely missed? How much internal cross-training can be done to close any gaps? Funds may continue to be tight, but it’s critical that you nurture every ounce of potential that exists within your group.

Investigate outside resources. Vendors, consultants, and business partners may be able to augment, either temporarily or long-term, the skills and expertise of your internal staff. Be sure you understand what type of help is available, and what the costs are likely to be. Notify your executive team that you may need to leverage outside resources, and remember to include any new line items in upcoming project budgets.

Evaluate existing priorities. Is your team able to continue supporting the projects that are still active? What about any that are in the pipeline, will those exceed your available resources? Work with your executive team, stakeholders, and team members to determine which projects can continue as originally planned, and which may need to be scaled back or canceled.

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