A member of your project team is not coming up to scratch. You’ve done everything in your power to help them be the right fit for the medical device project and the team. But you do not see any significant changes. While challenging, sometimes the only choice you can make as a medical device project manager is to remove them from the project team. But before you take that irreversible step of removing team members from your project, you need to be clear on these three things:
1. Determine if removing a team member is the right step.
In most cases, removing people from the team is not a good practice if avoidable. Especially if they are generally good at what they do. Chances are, they may be having an ‘off’ week. For all you know, they may be going through a divorce or dealing with a tough personal situation. There’s also a possibility that they might be overloaded or may have misunderstood their role in the project.
To determine if a team member is beyond second (or third, or fourth) chances, the Waddell group has a process we like to call ‘The Integrity review’.
We use this process to understand, document, and address what we expect from the team member and how they are falling short. We communicate these shortcomings to the concerned team member and try to understand the reason behind them – together. We work with them to devise a resolution that doesn’t get them removed from the team.
- Can the team member take a brief time off?
- Can you add a junior member to the team to take some load off?
- Can the team work with a temporary replacement?
- Can you train or retrain them?
- Can you backfill what’s needed with someone else and keep the team member on the team?
You also need to be aware of the risks associated with removing that team member.
- What if they are the only ones with critical knowledge about some aspect of the project?
- What if removing them from the team is not conducive to the medical device company, team, and project goals?
- How does their removal affect the project’s long-term and short-term goals?
- How will the rest of the team be affected if they stay on after being proved the wrong fit?
For example, keeping toxic people on your team may be the right decision if they are vital to the success of a ‘short-term’ project. But keeping them ‘long term’ may signal to the rest of the team that you will tolerate toxic behavior. It may even lead to good people quitting and low team morale and performance.
But if removing a team member from your medical device project is your only choice, then you better have a solid reason for removing them.
As medical device project management consultants specializing in bringing troubled projects out of chaos, Waddell Group has quite a bit of experience in this area.
2. Have a solid reason for removing a team member from a medical device project
As hard as you try to be a fair project manager who empowers your team, you also need to keep moving towards project objectives. You have to hold yourself and your team accountable for the project’s success. And there are certain situations that make the removal of a team member from a project unavoidable. They are:
1. Toxic behavior in the workplace.
Even if they are superstars paramount for the project’s success, it’s better to let them go. These people affect not only the team morale but also the team’s performance.
“…a fresh perspective and some constructive criticism can be a great asset on a team. But an employee who incites mutiny—tearing down previous work, undermining a management plan, or bad-mouthing a supervisor to others—has no place on a healthy team.”Forbes
2. Wrong seat on the bus.
Sometimes, someone’s skills don’t match what the medical device project needs. They are effectively on the wrong seat in the bus. Their lack of skills leads to poor performance, time delays, and roadblocks in the project. They also cause extra work for other team members.
3. Ill-equipped to handle the medical device project demands.
Often, a team member may have the skills and the disposition to be the perfect fit for the project and the team. But they may lack the energy, time, or emotional capacity to handle the project demands. In that case, it’s better to move them to a project team that’s a better fit for them.
There are several reasons why removing a team member from the medical device project team is a good idea. Still, it’s crucial to understand and manage the risks associated with removing them. This leads us to point number 3.
3. Understand how you can remove a team member from a project while mitigating the associated risk.
How you remove a team member from a medical device project can mean the difference between its success and failure. One of the secrets to managing a highly successful project team is to never remove a team member hastily, without equipping yourself to deal with their loss.
You need to start by understanding what the team member brings to the table and if it’s vital to the project. If it is vital, is there any way to transfer these skills or information to another team member or a replacement? How do you go about that? Do you need to debrief them on any confidential information?
Once you’ve determined the answers to the above questions, you can go to HR to start the removal proceedings. Remember, removing someone from the project team doesn’t mean removing them from the company. Someone who is not a fit for your team may be a great fit for someone else’s.
Because of this reason, you can always talk to their functional boss to ask for a replacement. Or get a contract hire to fill in their shoes. You can cite, ‘doesn’t meet project expectations’ as a reason for needing a different person for the team.
Suppose you have a Quality Assurance/Quality Control person that works for you on your team. They report to the QA/QC manager (their functional head). You can ask the QA/QC manager to replace them with another person from the QA/QC team. But functional head will still keep the removed team member on for other projects.
As medical device project managers and project management consultants, Waddell group always documents the entire medical device project process end-to-end. That way, we have all the information on hand in case a replacement becomes necessary. This information includes the project expectations from each team member and the training needed to perform them successfully.
That’s something you can do too.
Are You A Medical Device Company That Wants To Put Together And Manage A Highly Successful Project Team Of Your Own?
Reach out. The Waddell group provides strategic-level project leaders for the medical device industry. Beyond essential project management skills, our highly experienced consultants know how to lead teams, manage in times of crisis, and influence change. We offer expertise other firms can’t.