Much has been said about when your projects conflict. How do you handle it when your project conflicts with other projects in your organization and your resources are being pulled in different directions? All you can do is go one of two ways…. either negotiate to get another resource assigned to your project (if you can’t keep the one you have) or work with the other project manager or the project resource’s manager to free up his time for your project.
Now, what if that conflict is occurring on two of your projects? What if your project schedule has been shifted – either by occurrences in your organization, or by a situation with one or more of your project clients, or simple a delay in earlier project tasks that now means key tasks on separate projects are ramping up at the same time? What do you do then? Negotiate with yourself? Tell your customer they’re out of luck? Pick a customer to do the work for and another to delay? And how do you choose?
I have to admit; this is not a common occurrence. My teams usually very enough from project to project and my timelines usually stagger, so even if two projects are going full blast at the same time, they don’t usually involve the same key personnel. However, this did happen on two projects for me three years ago and here’s the four-step process I followed to navigate through the issue and keep both projects on track…
#1 – Alert the customer and team
Ever since my early days running government projects on the delivery side for the U.S. Department of Education, I’ve learned that it’s far better to be open and honest with the customer as soon as possible. You can make them your ally or your enemy – you choose. But I want a partner, and it’s served me well. Let your customer and team help you assess the situation and work on solutions. If they understand what you’re up against, then they’ll better understand the decisions you need to make and can work with you much easier.
#2 – Adjust schedules if possible
See if you can make any tweaks to the schedule. Your customer may be able to help you do this – they may know something you don’t that will allow one of the projects to slide without causing timing or budget issues.
#3 – Request a new resource one of the projects
If #2 can’t work – and in my case, it couldn’t – then request a new resource for whichever project is in the best shape. Getting a new resource onboard and up to speed – even if it’s only temporary – can have a negative impact on the project budget. Do this to whichever project can best afford it and let the customer know why you’re doing it. Your organization will need to eat the cost – unless the customer caused the issue. If that’s the case, a change order to cover the new resource’s time may be a possibility.
#4 – Perform the tasks and assess the situation
Move forward with the work and see where you land. If the short-term solution gets you through the conflict issue, then you’re set. If not, then you’ll probably need to keep your new resource on board and look at ways to reduce the budget somewhat on future tasks to make up the difference.
The bottom line here is that we know things don’t always go smoothly on our projects – we just don’t usually expect it to be our projects that cause the conflict. It puts us in a unique ‘fishbowl’ situation but the problem is all ours, and we must work with our customer and team to come up with the best solution…quickly.