What To Do When You Lose a Key Project Resource

Your To lose a key project resource or resources will have a big impact on your ability to deliver. What can you do and how urgently?

What makes someone a ‘Key’ resource?

A ‘key’ resource is someone on your team with information or knowledge that no one else has.  They may be the linchpin between the old system and the new system, for example.

Or, they might be the only person who has a full history of what has transpired beforehand in the business.

These resources are the glue that holds your whole project together.

Of course, that might not be just one person but a whole team of people. Be mindful of that.  We often think of a resource as a single person and that is not always the case.

Perhaps their skill set is something that is not common anymore. They might have specific training or years of knowledge that is in short supply in the marketplace.

These are all examples of what makes a ‘key’ resource on your project.

Why is a key resource so important to project success?

It’s often the case that without that person’s knowledge or skill you would have a large gap. A gap in your ability to successfully deliver your project that is not easily fillable.

You may not realise the full extent of knowledge or information held by this resource until they are no longer there.  Then it’s too late.

Transferring knowledge or information gained over a number of years is not a simple process. This makes that resources knowledge and information even more highly valued, in the overall scheme of the timeframe to project delivery.

Without that key resource, you have a huge gap in your ability to deliver the piece or pieces of your project to schedule, because of the lack of skill, knowledge or information that other resources have.

With the resources knowledge, information and skill level you can successfully deliver a project to the agreed timelines because of the efficiency related to your key resources abilities.

They undertake tasks with a knowingness and skill level that others just don’t have.

How do you manage the risk of potentially losing a key resource

As Project Managers, we don’t necessarily factor the reality of if we lose a key project resource or resources into the risk profile for our project and yet it is a very real risk.

Managing such a risk is not an easy task as the specific skill set you want may be uncommon in the marketplace.

The first thing to do is to log this potential risk. And for your mitigation strategy consider what you would do if you did lose that resource. How could you manage that?

Would you be able to go to the market place and find someone with the same or similar skill set?  If that’s possible find the place that you would go to do that and list that in your mitigation strategy.

If it’s not possible to replace the resource, what then? What is your next plan of action?

Maybe it’s the risk that is the project show stopper. The project could be stopped or put on hold indefinitely. Or the timeline for the project extensively extended. Neither of these works for a PCB or Project Sponsor.

It is very worthwhile making your Project Control Board aware that you have such a resource or resources on your project and the risk associated with that.

What it takes to not lose a key project resource

One of the first things to do is to make sure you acknowledge the value of your key resource(s).

As I have already mentioned the resource may have a lot of knowledge and information that you need. It’s therefore important to make sure you let them know how valuable they are to you.

It’s also important to ensure that your Project Sponsor and Project Control Board (PCB) understand the importance of having this resource on the project. Your PCB can then provide support for you if something looks like taking the resource from your team.

Remember it’s important to keep talking to this team member to ensure your relationship continues to be strong with them so if there is any small possibility they might leave or move to something else you are aware of it early.  Talk and be open with them about your ‘need’ for them on your project.

This is not about grovelling, and it is about letting them know how important their skills are to you and the success of the project.

Steps to take when you do lose a key resource

1 – Stop. Don’t panic.

2 – Call an urgent PCB Meeting.

3 – Consider all your options and come to an agreed outcome with your PCB.

4 – Put your plan into action about next steps.