Press Release, June 2001
Survivor Skills: How to get a downsized team to get your projects done.
Project management consultant Stan Portny says it's all about communication, appreciation, and respect.
It's a challenging time to be a manager. You can't pick up a newspaper these days without seeing the D-word. Downsizing. Certainly, it's a traumatic experience for those who lose their jobs. But what about the survivors? Yes, there's plenty of anxiety from the "I might be next" standpoint. But there's a more practical concern, too: just because some people are gone doesn't mean any of the work is. How will all your projects get done, now that there are fewer people to do them?
Project management consultant Stan Portny - president of Stanley E. Portny and Associates, LLC and author of the new Project Management For Dummies® (Hungry Minds, Inc., 2001, ISBN: 0-7645-5283-X, $19.99) - admits that downsizing can make life especially difficult for managers. This is true, he adds, whether you are dealing with people who report directly to you or whether you're heading up a project team of people over whom you have no authority.
Because much of what we do in the workplace (and life) is segmented into a series of projects, we have all become project managers in some form or fashion. It is hard enough to manage projects with the whole team on board, but with missing team members and less expertise, it can be tricky.
"You may find that you have to complete your projects with fewer people," he says. "Or, you may have the same number of bodies on your team, but some of them may be less invested in your project than before, because they're having to pick up the slack from someone who was laid off in a different department. It's up to you, the manager, to help the people who work on your projects to do so more efficiently."
So how do you get the most from a project team that's been hit by the downsizing axe? Portny - who has built his career on helping companies create a high-energy, high-productivity work environment - offers the following tips:
It must be noted that communication and relationship skills are at the heart of all of Portny's suggestions - not surprising for a consultant who has become known for a business philosophy he's named "Power of People" Project System.
"People skills are everything," he says simply. "This is true in any workplace, but I think it's especially true in an uncertain, high-stress environment like a recently downsized company. You need to show team members that you care about them as people, that you don't just see them as machines that turn out work."
"Relationships build on trust and genuine appreciation - I emphasize genuine because this is something you can't fake - are the key to successful projects," adds Portny. "You can't manipulate someone into throwing his or her heart into a project. But if people respect you and feel respected by you, they'll want to work with you. And that's the key to getting them to go that all-important extra mile."