Is Your Project Team Running Out of Energy?

The fast pace of project planning and execution can sometimes take a toll on team members. Nonstop communications, coordination across multiple stakeholders and cross-functional groups, the expectation of real-time data availability and analysis, and driving several projects through different lifecycle phases simultaneously—it can drain your team’s energy if you aren’t careful. By keeping an eye out for signals people may be running out of steam, and with a few proactive measures in place, PMs can ensure their groups have the energy they need to do their best work.

project team

One sign of fading energy is a drop in meeting participation. As people juggle challenging workloads, routine get-togethers may be among the first things to go. If they choose to send another team member in their place, it might simply be a sign that things are busy. However, if no one represents a functional area for several events in a row, you may want to see what’s going on.

A team that doesn’t take vacations could be subtly indicating their energy is getting low. Rather than taking time to rest and recharge, high performers often compensate by throwing themselves full-bore into their duties. But unless it’s an extremely short-term situation, this often results in bigger problems later because downtime is a crucial component in restoring energy levels.

If the communication stream begins to dry up, you might want to see if it’s due to waning stamina. Project team members may not have enough energy to maintain regular data sharing activities. If that’s the case, their recourse is often to scale communications back to only those that are necessary or urgent.

A failure to conductstrategic planning could be a red flag that your team is running out of steam. With more immediate concerns in front of them, activities such as project portfolio management could fall down the priority scale. Team members typically plan to resume strategic-level planning once things settle down, but if you’re managing several efforts simultaneously then the hoped-for lull may never happen.

How can you resolve the problems caused by low energy? What does it take to ensure your team maintains consistent strength going forward? A handful of strategies will help address existing concerns, plus PMs can implement some key steps to avoid future issues.

Begin by assigning key duties—communications, administrative tasks, and portfolio management among them—to only a few people within the project team. Putting some structure around these tasks enables you to identify whether lapses are the result of failing energy or simply due to too many people using different protocols to carry out important work.

Next, evaluate how meetings and data sharing are managed. Are the right disciplines represented during discussions? Can you trim attendee or recipient lists without sacrificing productivity? The use of web conferencing or other online platforms may help reduce the energy required to participate in meetings and to receive, review, and comment on new information. You’ll avoid adding to team members’ workloads while still supporting good collaboration.

It’s also wise to discuss your concerns with your group. Ask for their perspective on how things are going. If they agree their energy is dwindling, consider bringing in some short-term support. You’ll give your team some breathing room to execute their duties without running their energy reserves dry.

Finally, maintain awareness of team members’ workloads and vacation schedules. Some personalities do better when time away is spaced consistently throughout the year. Others excel when they take longer breaks after intense work periods. Don’t let the sheer volume of tasks prevent your group from stepping back to replenish their energy when necessary.


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