Teams and Timing

By Bruce F. Webster Print this article Print

Layoffs are hard on everyone, but your team could grow stronger despite budget cutbacks.

Evaluate Teams, Not Just Individuals

Far too often, upper or even mid-level management views IT employees as free-standing and largely interchangeable units of productivity. Nothing could be further from the truth. Software engineering is one of the most intensely social and cooperative activities in modern enterprises, and there are few things more valuable that a solid software team whose members can work and get along with one another. Laying off one or two members of a team can reduce that team’s effectiveness, destroy morale, and lead to other team members – the ones you probably want to keep – leaving the organization.
Shape Your Teams to Fit Your Projects

In all this, remember that your IT staff exists to complete new projects and support existing ones. If you have been through IT project triage and have shut down those projects that are cancelled, mothballed, or suspended, then you now know what projects remain. Look at your entire IT staff to figure out how you will shape or rearrange the teams for each of those projects.

Act Quickly and Decisively

Few things destroy morale and productivity more than the threat of pending layoffs in the near future. The uncertainty of knowing whether you have a job or not seriously undermines productivity and, again, will lead to the best of your staff looking for jobs elsewhere. As far as possible, get ahead of the rumor mill, make the decisions, and take action.

Provide Sufficient Notice and Layoff Services

Again, I have seen first-hand situations where, in the name of “economy”, the organization gives little or no notice to those being laid off, and few if any services in helping those being laid off to find jobs elsewhere. The result is almost always anger, suspicion, and distrust among those who remain behind. In the name of saving a few weeks’ salary, you may end up undermining or dismantling your most critical development teams and ensuring your own failure as an IT manager.

Laying off staff is perhaps the most difficult task you will ever face as a manager. Take the time to think carefully through the implications of what you are doing and what impact it will have on those who stay.

[Copyright (c) 2009 by Bruce F. Webster]

----------------------------------------- Bruce F. Webster is an international IT consultant. You can reach him at bwebster@bfwa.com or via his websites at brucefwebster.com and bfwa.com.

This article was originally published on 2009-02-11
Webster is Principal and Founder at at Bruce F. Webster & Associates LLC. He works with organizations to help them evaluate troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects, or to assess IT systems and products for possible investment/acquisition. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan.
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