Will They Grow Into the Role?
Often times when a team member is struggling it is because they are new to the role or even the organization. Their inexperience is something that should not be hidden from the customer (if at all possible) but absolutely shielded and guarded. But often times the situation dictates that the project requires someone with more experience and knowledge than what that individual has. The question that you as a project manager need to ask is “Can this person grow into the role on this project?” To answer that, your project needs to be able to absorb extra schedule and/or budget to help with learning curves associated with growing into a role.
Can Your Project Succeed With Them?
This is often a harsh question to ask but definitely a realistic one to ask. Often times there are just person/project mismatches. Maybe the client has a personal problem with the team member (or vice versa), maybe the team member’s weaknesses outmatch their strengths for what they bring to this project. As an organization, it’s your duty to develop your individuals to become stronger professionals however looking at the criticality of your projects, those individuals should be on projects where there is some level of insulation where neither the development of the individual nor the project itself are adversely hampered by that individual being part of the project team. Perhaps it is a new business analyst who is learning to effectively run a requirements gathering session. Would you put that individual on a mission critical project with your highest profile client? Probably not. Would you put them on a project shadowing a more senior resource (perhaps not billable) to learn the ropes, observe and maybe help out with some of the heavy lifting? Absolutely.
Can Your Customer Accept Them?
More often than not the reason for pulling a team member off of a project is due to conflicts or poor perception with the client. Having a team member that the customer does not believe is fitted for the job can be often times an insurmountable obstacle and may be more challenging than just removing and replacing that individual. If your customer seems tolerant enough to work with the individual (perhaps they have a good rapport) then it can be a great learning experience. What you cannot do as a project manager is have someone client-facing with obvious conflicts with the customer. Your customer needs to have faith in your team’s abilities to get the job done. Without that, you will be fighting a much tougher battle than you need to.
As a project manager, it’s your job to ensure the successful delivery of your projects. Personnel development is also a key aspect to any organizational growth and there is always an internal cost to doing so. The question that the project manager (or even senior leadership) needs to ask is “what price are we willing to pay on this project to develop our people?” Careful planning and providing the right answer to this question will help minimize the possibility of having to remove a team member from your project down the road.