TUM Management Insights

Managing employees across projects – Implications for project success

Managing employees across projects – Implications for project success


In today’s dynamic business enviroments, firms must continuously start new projects and, if unsuccessful, terminate them early and frequently. Project termination means that employees are transferred to new projects that have more promising perspectives. Transitions between projects, however, are not always easy for employees because their learning and application of new knowledge generated within the exited project can impact how the subsequent project develops. In addition, project exit means that the prior project team breaks up, potentially leading to decreased employee commitment and lower motivation on the new project. How can managers effectively help employees transition from one project to the next and thereby enhance the subsequent project’s performance?


In an article published in the Journal of Business Venturing, Professor Patzelt from the TUM School of Management together with Professor Behrens (Solvay School of Business, Brussels), Professor Wolfe (Oklahoma University, USA) and Professor Shepherd (University of Notre Dame, USA) explore how management can facilitate employees’ transitions between projects. Drawing on a series of studies on hundreds of team members of R&D projects, the authors develop a new psychometric scale—the perceived project transition support (PPTS) scale—that measures employees’ beliefs that their firm effectively supports them during project transitions. The authors then use this scale to study the implications of PPTS for employee motivation and project success.


An important insight from the study is that employees indeed perceive project exit and entry as part of one transition process. To manage this process effectively, firms should use the following managerial practices: (1) debriefing; (2) providing reflection time; (3) briefing; building a new project team employees (4) view as competent and (5) can relate to; and (6) organizing the transition process in a structured manner. When these practices are used, employees’ commitment to the firm increases while their feelings of work stress decrease. Further, the study shows a clear positive relationship between PPTS and better performance of the subsequent project. Therefore, effective project management does not only cover the action phases of projects, but the project transition phase is also an important area for managing employees working on projects effectively.


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