Doctor Project Forum – Helpful Advice for Handling Project Budget Cuts

February 2010

Dear Doctor Project

Thank you for your helpful Dr. Project advice column. Now I need some advice from you about budget cuts to my project.

My project sponsor just cut 30% of the funds and I am really confused and short of ideas at the moment. What is the best practice and how am I to resolve this issue?
This my first project with this sponsor and I don’t want to lose face, truth or the project in any way.

Thanks for your time,


Dear Challenged,

I know that this is a very difficult situation, especially since this is your first project. However, don’t despair. It is very common though I know it is very unsettling. When a Sponsor cuts project funding they usually are unaware of the impact this budget reduction will have on the project. Rather, they believe the project manager will figure it out. We all know this isn’t as easy as it seems.

The first and most important thing for you to do is research. Identify the impact this 30% funding cut will have on your project? For example:

Will it make it impossible for you to complete the project on time?
Will you have to reduce the number of resources working on the project? How will this impact the project?
Will it reduce the likelihood that you will be able to meet your customer and other stakeholder requirements? If so, how will it impact them?
The second thing for you to do is to develop possible solutions. For example:

You can extend the end of the project since you will have fewer resources.
You can change what you are able to provide to the customers and other stakeholders to meet their requirements. Or, you can deliver some of their requirements through Stage 1 of this project and defer other requirements to a Stage 2 of this project.
You can reduce the number of project deliverables you are able to complete as identified in your project Scope Statement.
I’m certain there will be more areas of impact on the project that you can identify. As well, there will be more possible solutions. The next stage is to complete a Change Request. It is important that you document the impacts that this 30% cost reduction will have on the project and follow each impact with a recommended solution.

Your goal is to educate your Sponsor. You want them to understand that you can manage with a 30% cost reduction but you need them to understand the impact that this will have on the project and what you recommend as possible solutions to continue to successfully manage this project. In most cases, the Sponsor suddenly becomes aware of the true impact of this significant change and gives more consideration to your suggested alternatives. They will appreciate your concern for keeping the project on track.

Please keep me updated on your sponsor relationship and do let me know if you need any more help managing them.

Doctor Project

Doctor Project provides helpful advice for managing project sponsors. Please send your questions, issues, concerns and challenges about your projects or your Project Management Office (PMO or EPMO) to

Michael Stanleigh

Michael Stanleigh, CMC, CSP, CSM is the CEO of Business Improvement Architects. He works with leaders and their teams around the world to improve organizational performance by helping them to define their strategic direction, increase leadership performance, create cultures that drive innovation and improve project and quality management. Michael’s experience spans public and private sector organizations in over 20 different countries. He also delivers presentations to businesses and conferences throughout the world. In addition to his consulting practice and global speaking he has been featured and published in over 500 different magazines and industry publications.

For more information about this article you may contact Michael Stanleigh at