VOICES In the Trenches
When and how to tell a client about
internal problems on the project.
By Meredith Zehnder, PMP
“WH Y DIDN’ T YOU TELL ME SOONER?”
Every project manager I know has been asked this
question, either by an internal or external client.
Many things can go wrong behind the scenes of
a project, and usually it’s best to keep them behind
the scenes. Your client doesn’t need to know you
don’t like your co-worker or that one member of
your team is notoriously late. Unearthing every
internal issue can easily cause a rocky client
Sometimes, however, internal issues should be
Someone on the project team just quit.
shared. Here’s advice on when—and how—to do it.
If a client-facing member of the team is leaving,
your client is going to notice.
A few years ago, I was managing a project for a
large customer. The entire team was dedicated to this
project because the client wanted consistency. When
one of the key players announced she was resigning,
the account manager and I decided to identify a suitable replacement and form a transition plan before
notifying the client. We didn’t have a lot of time and
worked in a frenzy to make it happen, but to the
client it was a successful, well-organized transition
that created very little disruption.
The client didn’t need exposure to our frenzy,
and neither does yours. Nobody wants to hear,
“We’re figuring it out.” A focused plan will
maintain the client’s confidence in the team and
Be sure to let the client know about outbound