Skip to main content

Stealing a Resource from Another Project

We do run into situations from time to time when we lose a resource to another project. It hurts, it’s frustrating and we are suddenly forced into a situation where we must fill a huge void on our project team…unexpectedly. I can honestly say, I’ve lost several key resources on projects along the way and none were planned. Not once did I have any advanced notification that I was going to lose a particular resource, and when it happened I had to deal with it quickly, put in a request for a replacement resource, acquire the resource, begin to get them up to speed as quickly as possible and introduce them to the customer — preferably after they had a firm grasp of the project’s requirements, status and issues.

That’s one side of the equation — and for most of us who try to play as fairly as possible that is probably the side of the equation we have seen the most. But then again, nice guys sometimes finish last. So, let’s take a look at the other side of project resource management for this type of situation, the side where you need not just a particular skill set…you need “that guy.” Has that ever been you? That has been me — twice. I’m not proud of it, but I had to make it happen on two of my projects and, while the two scenarios weren’t identical and they presented themselves in two different organizations, how I acted was similar enough to formulate a general strategy that I will share with you here. You know, in case you find yourself in a similar situation and you want to pilfer a key resource from an unsuspecting project manager who’s trying hard just like you to succeed and has no idea you’re about to wreak havoc on his project timeline and budget.

Know your target

First, obviously, you need to know who it is you want. And check your project. If it isn’t a high-profile, high-dollar, mission-critical project, you probably won’t get very far and might as well stop here before you embarrass yourself. And also consider your connections in the organization. Are you well connected? Believe me, it helps…a lot. You may be able to pull this off solely based on the importance of your project, but it really helps if you know the right people as well. Because the only thing worse than a robbery like this is an attempted robbery that fails. It’s like putting up your hand in public for a high-five and no one gives you a high-five. Embarrassing.

So, know who you want, know that your project warrants making this kind of move, and know that you know some people who can help you pull it off. Then move forward.

Go to your closest connection on the executive team

You don’t want to go to senior management any more than you have to. They are busy, and you don’t want to be asking them for favors all the time. But if you are well connected in the organization, sometimes you must use those connections to help you and your project succeed. And if you have to have a particular resource who is currently unavailable because they are 100% committed to another project, then now is one of those times that you reach out to your senior management connections and get their buy-in and support for what you are about to request.

Get them up to speed on your project. Explain your reasons for needing this specific resource and what it means to your project’s success and what that project means to your organization. Some projects are going to be an easier sell than others — let’s hope yours is an easy one because this step could be the end of the line for your request. If you go this far and your helpful senior management connection deems your move destructive (because you can find a different resource and do just fine or because they perceive your project not to be critical enough to warrant such a move) then you have just raised a flag and there will likely be no way you can acquire that resource for your project…they will see to it.

But if you indeed can sell this concept to that senior management connection, then you are well on your way to enhancing your project team with your desired resource acquisition.

Verify overall availability with direct supervisor

This may or may not be a necessary part of the process, but it never hurts to check in with the direct supervisor of the target resource. Why? Because even those resources who are dedicated 100% to your very critical project can get pulled back periodically by their direct supervisor to do some departmental work that has long been planned or may be of particular importance at any given time. It’s not often — especially when you are in a matrix organization where these resources are really supposed to be part of project teams most of the time. But it never hurts to verify overall availability with the direct supervisor…consider it a risk-avoidance move.

Get approval

Finally, with the justification in hand, the support of your senior management, and the verification of the resource’s overall availability, you go for the gold. How the rest of the equation works depends on the resource assignment and gate-keeping system in your own organization (and it may very well be that you just let the senior management connection make this move for you). But, in general, you get the approval (based on all the work you’ve done so far) and you acquire the resource. Getting them up to speed is the full responsibility, of course, of you and the rest of your project team — that is just part of the normal project collaboration process. However, you have probably already put that in motion if the likely success of your move looked promising early on.


This might not win you points with your other project manager colleagues, and if you do this more than once you’re likely going to get a negative reputation. But success does sometimes come at a price. I’m not saying nice guys actually do finish last. I think I’m a nice guy. But I’m not going to finish last so I’ll put the nice guy reputation on hold from time to time if I have to in order to help ensure the success of my project and my project team for the customers for which I’m managing these engagements.

Don’t forget to leave your comments below.

Brad Egeland

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, Creative Design, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. He has been named the “#1 Provider of Project Management Content in the World” with over 7,000 published articles, eBooks, white papers and videos. Brad is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad's site at

Comments (5)