Ideally, we keep our project team intact throughout the engagement, and ideally everyone works together productively, efficiently, and cohesively.  And ideally everyone does a great job, has no run-ins with the customer and has the necessary skills to perform all of the project tasks they are assigned to perform.  Ideally.

However, it does happen from time to time that we need to bring a new team member to the project.  Someone on your team may not be living up to the ‘ideals’ mentioned in the first paragraph above.  Or perhaps their skills are now required on a new, very high-profile project or on a project that is performing poorly and needs their help for a period of time to get over whatever issues are currently being encountered.  Or perhaps they just got fired from the company.  Whatever the issue, if you need to onboard a new person to your active project, then you need to do it efficiently, strategically, and in a way that will retain customer confidence in your team and your ability to manage them and the project as a whole.

When this is necessary, I generally try to follow the following 5 step process to get the new team member up to speed, onboarded, and productive so as not to experience any hiccups on the project….

1) Customer alert.  So as not to look deceptive to the project client, the first thing I do is alert the customer that a change is going to be taking place.  I give them as much information as possible about the situation – in a positive light, of course – and may provide a resume for the incoming person if it’s relevant…or at least the team member’s experience summary with the company or similar projects.  Basically, anything that gives the customer confidence that they aren’t going to experience a drop in service.  This is especially necessary if the team member change is being necessitated due to the customer’s own dissatisfaction with the outgoing team member.

2) Knowledge transfer.  Next, I offload as much information as possible to the new team member and call upon the project team to do the same.  I provide as much project history and documentation as possible: the statement of work, my presentation materials from the project kickoff meeting, the requirements document, updated project schedules, status reports, budget forecasts (if needed), team member forecasts, etc….anything that can give the team member a good snapshot of where we started and where we are now.  As for the rest of the team – I call a team meeting and introduce the team member and ask that they give any relevant information they can think of right there to the new person AND that they each have a call or meeting within the next week one-on-one with the new member to give them their updates on the project.

3) Customer introduction.  My next step is to conduct a formal introduction of the team member to the customer on the next project status call or face-to-face meeting.  They may not be productively working on the project yet – likely they aren’t – but it’s a chance to conduct some friendly banter with the project client and to allow the customer to ask any questions they might have of the new team member.

4) Status call sit-in.  This step may or may not be possible…but I like to have the new person stay in the ‘shadows’ for a week or two.  Obviously this works best if the outgoing person is still available for 1-2 weeks.  That way the team member can see how the meetings are being run, what their involvement expectations are and see exactly where things stand and what appears to be the main areas of interest for the project client.

5) Productive activity.  Finally, I expect the project member to be fully up to speed and productive on the project within 1-2 weeks.  As mentioned, that may be an immediate requirement if the outgoing person is completely gone and the rest of the team can’t pick up the slack in the interim.  But under ideal circumstances, a 1-2 week scenario is what I shoot for.

About the Author

Guest Post: Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is married, a father of 9, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad’s site at http://www.bradegeland.com/.

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