An Actionable PM Perspective on the Pandemic

Lili Kaneva

   If you’re anything like me (and let’s face it we’re all Planning Monsters here) you are bearing the personal yearly goal setting in a special place in your spreadsheet-heart. How we make those is a matter of taste but I’d say that there is a hard-coded step in this exercise, namely the trend check. When I evaluate my future path I need to know the terrain I will encounter know - you may end up with flip-flops on boulders and you don’t want that.

   The list of articles I am offering here is aimed to give you a flavour of the impact the pandemic had on our profession and the prospects for all those practicing project management, regardless of their formal title. Please scroll through the articles, while I still offer a digest of my after-toughts in a few sentences as well.

   There are several factors that influence project management through COVID-19 perspective. On a very high level those are the unusually high uncertainty in the business environment, compulsory scattered teams and the Big Digital Leap.

   It may sound strange to scare PMs with uncertainty, right? Normally we are born for that. However this time it is beyond the project, beyond the company and even beyond normal human comprehension. What it brings is a whole new perspective to every project, large or small. Every PM has to ensure first the bare continuity of work - through infrastructure, staffing and contractor back ups and then to move beyond this and work for the mid- and long-term. This work would be aimed in multiple directions - slimming costs, boulding up contingency plans or even re-evaluating project needs together with senior management. This point is near and dear to me because it brings home the topic of portfolio management. Re-evaluating needs would happen in line with company goals. No project will survive in the harsh “optimization environment” without a clear and measurable contribution to the high level goals of the organization. Enter the project economy and the Enterprise PMO!

   The uncertainty is changing delivery approaches. You can no longer rely on a single methodology. Upskill quickly because the “new normal” in PM terms is to be able to select your project management approach based on current project needs. We need to master multiple methodologies and make any project hybrid (thank you PM Summit 2019!). Needless to mention that Disciplined Agile is far from hype and a working reality now. I highly encourage you to research it if you haven’t already.

   Sending everyone home does not present us with a novel challenge as project leaders. It only puts our leadership skills under enormous and constant strain. We’ve been preaching about communication ever since...well forever. But now we have to make the choir sing with our skills. One thing is that you can’t count on informal communication anymore, another that you can’t possibly know how your team members are affected mentally and a whole other that you have to completely overhaul your communication approach. If you want to stay on top and on track I’d say forget about the “percentage complete”. Think about the right tools,convenient tools and offer them quickly with a lot of empathy on the side. Think how you can tune within project boundaries to be agile but don’t forget organizational policies - this is your frame and can create a huge reporting overhead.

   You may have dropped a thin smile on the last trend I listed because, you know, we’re all technological natives here. Trust me! We haven’t even seen the start of it. We talked a bit about AI but it was mostly the “oh it will wipe us” hipe. Now it’s time for something different. We have to (quickly) accept automation as our daily companion. You may not even know it but likely your PM software is already doing bits and pieces of this work for you. Get ahead of it and try to understand the tools. “Technical” has a new dimension now and it is one of the most important aspects of your profile.

   The pandemic emerged as an unknown-unknown in our personal and professional lives. We can weather itr with empathy, resilience and a thirsty mind. Surely it will also help that we are together in it as a PM community!