As we all are aware, the success of a project is dependent on the team members who each have a contribution to the various milestones. Every team member has their own expertise that will help with the execution of a project, and every team member wants a project to succeed. However, there are times where a team member will fall behind in his/her tasks which may undoubtedly cause the project timelines to slip. There are several things that the project manager can do to help in this type of situation.
According to a blog posting by Barry Otterholt, if a project team member is falling behind in his tasks, the project manager needs to step in and help correct the situation before the project slips too far behind schedule and project team morale slips. The project manager should speak with the member in a tone that isn’t accusatory or from a manager to a subordinate, but from a colleague to a colleague and in an open manner. It may be that the employee is simply overloaded with additional work (which is common in these economic times). If this is the case, the issue is relatively easy to resolve, and the project manager can provide coaching or additional resources to help get the employee’s job done. While an additional resource (even a temporary resource) may be expensive, the cost of that employee may be less than the cost of the project not being completed on time.
Other issues, like personal problems or incorrect prioritization could also be the cause of a task to fall behind schedule for a team member. However, if all else fails, he/she needs to escalate appropriately. In another posting by Brad Egeland, if all attempts to “work it out” fails, the supervisor of that team member needs to be notified and he/she needs to be taken off of the project and a new resource needs to be assigned. As stated above, waiting too long can be detrimental to the project chemistry as well as the morale of other project team members.
Finally, Otterholt finishes his posting with a few quick tips about dealing with this type of a situation. First, ensure the team member takes responsibility for the task that is falling behind. Next, the project manager needs to show a willingness to help. Third, the project manager should be resourceful in finding a solution. Finally, if all else fails, the project manager should cut ties with that resource.
My question to everyone is how would/have you dealt with a problematic project team member in any project you participated in? If you were the project manager in a project where a team member is consistently missing deadlines, how would you handle the situation?