Real Situation: you are the project manager for a small company, you have one senior developer and one junior developer. You have a big client (accounting for about 50% of company sales) breathing down your neck. The client wants you to deliver a project that your senior developer promised would be delivered over a month ago (side note: the client provided new requirements after this deadline was given but has refused to give you more than one extra week).

The client has two projects in the pipeline with you and desperately wants to see results on the first project. The first project is 95% complete and only requires mundane details to be completed. When these requirements are met it is likely more requirements will be given. The second project is barely started. You are getting worried that you will lose the client and/or second project if the first project is not delivered soon.

Your senior developer considers the changes remaining on the first project has no value left and so he does not want to work on the first project. He wants to move onto the second project as all the interesting / high value work on the first project is done.

The junior web developer is attending to simpler, but higher priority projects, and cannot begin work on the first project for at least another day if not two. When the junior developer can begin work on the first project he will take vastly longer to complete the tasks than the senior developer (likey 3 days instead of three hours).

If you give it to the senior programmer he cannot work on high value work for the second project, but if you give it to the junior programmer you unnecessarily continue to delay the delivery of the first project and further upset the client.

How would you handle this situation?

  • 1
    You could try rephrasing the question title, so it describes the case. Something like "How to allocate developers across projects with different priority" will be more descriptive Commented Jan 14, 2015 at 9:52
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    – Tob
    Commented May 11, 2015 at 18:41

2 Answers 2


You are solving wrong problem

Your PM is completely out of control and #1 task is to get Projects back to PMs hands. They're now run by the Client and Developers, which is not really their job. .

There are many dangerous signs in case description:

  • "senior developer promised would be delivered over a month ago". What does "developer promised" mean? Isn't it the PM, who takes developer estimates as an input and then comes up with Project Plan?
  • "the client provided new requirements after this deadline was given but has refused to give you more than one extra week". Again, isn't it the PM who takes client expectations as an input and balances the scope, budget, time, risk and quality?
  • "The first project is 95% complete". We all know that poorly managed Projects are 95% complete for 95% of time. Who measured those 95%? Is that a well grounded KPI or just developer's perception?

So, instead of deciding who will do what, PM should get Projects back on track first. This means:

  1. Get grounded estimates for both Projects from the development team.
  2. Sort out risks (why the Projects were delayed before?) and apply risk contingencies/reserves.
  3. Develop a REALISTIC schedule. Have the team and the Client buy into it.
  4. Control Projects, so they are delivered to the schedule.

"The Client will not accept new deadlines" is not an excuse. It's a PM job to work with the Client, play around scope, resources and time and develop balanced baseline.

Good luck.


As Vadim suggests, it is crystal clear your PM capabilities are immature and under performing. It could be the abilities of the PM himself or a combination of the PM and organization systems and capabilities.

To solve the short term problem, to begin work on the second project before the first is signed off seems to be like continuing ad hoc, out of control, and dysfunctional PM behaviors. The threat of losing the project and the client is very high. Seems like the first project needs to have priority; finish it up and then regroup.

Solving the longer term problem is where you need to focus a lot of your energy. You need more PM discipline and documented planning, execution, staffing, and risk management processes...among others.

A notion of a realistic schedule is a red herring. A schedule is only realistic when your actuals meet it, which is after the fact. However, credible estimates, planning values that are consistent with your risk appetite, and methods of tracking and control are what you are after. Because if those things are high performing, your schedule was "realistic" even if you came in late.

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