Managing Projects in a Recession

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So, it’s official: we’re now in a recession. We’ve known for some while that the economic good times had to come to an end. Now that the end is in sight, we’re all more than a little worried.  If you’re responsible for a portfolio of projects what does this mean for you?

I believe you’ll face three big challenges in the months to come:

  1. You’ll come under financial pressure, as your organisation looks for ways to cut costs;
  2. You’ll come under even more pressure to deliver your projects on time and under budget;
  3. You’ll struggle to keep your best people.

So, what should you do right now to stay in control and maximise the chances of success, even when money is tight and confidence is low? Here are three steps that you can take right now.

Focus on your “must do” projects; cut the rest

Review all of your current projects, both the ones that are currently underway and those that are on the launch pad. Divide them into two groups: (1) projects that you have to complete, and; (2) projects that you can choose not to complete. You need to look at your “must do” projects to see which may need more money and which can survive with less.

Invest in your key programmes

Your priority must be to focus time, attention and money on your “must-do” programmes.  You’ll have to take some tough decisions.Take these actions and you’ll have a better focus on a smaller number of key projects and the money to fund them from existing budgets.

  1. Stop projects that were and are floundering;
  2. Put projects on hold if you can;
  3. Take the funding that you would have spent on these projects and transfer it to your mandatory projects instead.

Put your best people on your key programmes

Don’t let your best people leave just because the projects they were working on get cancelled.

There’s never a good time to move between onto different projects, but this is a great time to do so because:

  1. You’ll get the right people working on your key projects;
  2. You’ll provide certainty to those people who need it;
  3. You’ll demonstrate good leadership, and;
  4. You’ll raise peoples’ confidence about the projects they are working on and about their own career prospects.


Take these three steps and you’ll have a better chance of delivering your projects in tough times. Your key programmes should come through this period intact., you’ll help your organisation manage on less money and, as the recession ends, it will be in a much stronger position to compete in the future.