Weathering the Storm

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Preparing for Resource-Constrained Times
  1. while others may be going through this same prioritization process and delaying delivery of products or functionality that you are dependent upon. Supplier pricing for items not yet procured may increase. Perhaps you could negotiate contracts now to lock in pricing?
  2. Review your personnel risks. Many organizations slow or halt hiring when budgets are tight, so lost team members may be more difficult to replace.
  3. Review your project's historical performance against expectations. If your plans are not credible, now is a prudent time to review and revise them. Perhaps your project SHOULD be cancelled or delayed. Take responsibility for providing the best information available to support sponsor decision-making.
  4. Review your proposed spending and hiring plan. If there is fat to trim take the lead in identifying it and proposing alternatives. Can some of your project expenses be safely delayed?
  5. Keep the business perspective in mind, and don't save the wrong dollar. Some individuals and organizations overreact to financial constraints with a knee-jerk elimination of all "discretionary" spending. Be prepared to make a business case for prudent expenditures. If delaying procurement of memory for your development team's workstations saves $5,000 in expenses but costs you five hours per day in team productivity, you will have paid for the memory in lost productivity after about ten days. This is dumb. Frame the discussion in business terms and present it politely and discreetly.
  6. Lead--don't panic and don't whine. Your team will look to you for guidance. Be prepared to explain the business rationale behind some of the hard choices that may be coming. Engage the team in planning and prioritization. It is better for morale when the team can participate in hard decisions, because it eliminates some of the fear and uncertainty.

Before we can have interesting projects, fulfilling work, and enjoyable technical challenges, our organizations must survive to support these efforts. Project managers and project leaders who take the initiative to support thoughtful business decisions help their organizations survive. There is no better way to demonstrate your value to the organization as well as awareness and sensitivity to the realities it faces.

From a personal career perspective, watch to see how your organization responds to the turbulence. Some organizations won't respond rationally or promptly and may not survive. Now is a great time to refresh your professional network (before you need it), invest in professional reading and education, and assure that your skills are up to date should a job search should become necessary. If the ship you are on seems destined to sink, remember that you were looking for a job when you got this one ... and you are probably smarter and more experienced now than you were then.

About the author

Payson Hall's picture Payson Hall

Payson Hall is a consulting project manager for Catalysis Group, Inc. in Sacramento, California. Payson consults on project management issues and teaches project management. Email Payson at payson@catalysisgroup.com. Follow him on twitter at @paysonhall.

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