There are many negatives to changing managers while right in the middle of a project. This is normally not done but there are situations in which it is impossible to avoid this unwanted scenario. For instance, the manager might simply hand in a resignation without warning.
Ryan Grigson is highly experienced with project management and even he says that the solution to such a problem is not at all simple. There is never a suitable time when the project manager can leave projects. This is especially the case when the change is a surprise.
The common situation is having management scrambling with the purpose of finding a suitable replacement. Project team members are shocked as the leader disappeared and there is always a negative view put on whoever is going to take the position of the changed project manager.
The most important thing at the end of the day is to minimize all the impact that was caused by having the project manager leave. This all boils down to 2 things that will be highlighted in the following paragraphs.
Being Prepared For Project Managers Leaving
Really good and experienced business owners understand the importance of risk management. This does include being prepared to deal with project managers disappearing. You can do this through different things, like:
- Always having project succession plans in place for the most important team members. This does not only relate to the project manager. It also includes the main developers, analysts and whoever is really important for the project.
- Assess if project manager is a flight risk due to prior circumstances.
- Document whether or not there are some specific skills that are needed for filling the position. There are some situations where specific industry, technical or functional skills are necessary.
Dealing With Project Managers Leaving
Whenever project managers leave, no matter the reason, it is time to take action:
- Execute succession plan as soon as the successor planned is fully ready to take control. There are cases when this will happen really fast. In others it does take some time since the successor has to share some workload with other people. No matter the case, the succession needs to happen as soon as possible.
- Never put much pressure on the project manager that is fleeing. There may be some untold problems. Also, even if the manager is still on the job for a number of weeks, work efficiency will surely be lower.
- Keep your eyes on how things go. Never assume that simply because someone else was appointed as project manager you will be faced with no future problems. Assist if some problems appear.
- Maintain calmness. As the project leader disappears, the situation is filled with dissention, infighting and confusion. This can lead to numerous schedule and budget problems. The team should remain motivated and focused as the transition happens. Always be sure that every single team member is kept in the loop about everything that changes. Even one thing that is not known can lead to some huge problems.