In what way will project management – and project managers – be important to help organizations emerge in the "new normal"?
This is, I believe, the chance for the discipline and its practitioners to shine.
There will be myriad changes to working environments which will never be exactly the same again and different for every workplace. Among other things this will cover changes both in the way we work and where we work; how employee behaviours are affected by apprehension and what has happened to our partners and suppliers.
Inevitably, organizations will need projects to deliver new products, practices, skills, procedures and, potentially, a permanent move to online operations.
Understanding and planning for the benefits/disbenefits of change has always existed for project managers; while the new normal is, admittedly, an extreme environment their skills are not just useful but essential.
How project/programme management can help
The stakeholder management knowledge and skills learned in PRINCE2® and Managing Successful Programmes (MSP®) will be vital to encourage company leadership to take stock: that means thinking about the line of sight between benefits it wants to achieve, the impacts it wants to see on the ground and then deciding on what it wants to deliver.
For example, are pre-lockdown projects important anymore? Would they either deliver the planned benefits or be the best use of scarce resources?
Project managers need to look at their existing projects and decide whether they still meet the organization’s strategy. This means revisiting the business case with the sponsor’s go-ahead and exercising strong stakeholder management skills, as stakeholders will need to have confidence in their project managers.
And though it’s not in the latter’s remit to stop a project, they can point out the pros and cons of continuing while assessing the value of new projects proposed.
Also, their understanding and application of risk management can be an invaluable asset at this time. They appreciate the risk appetite of their organization and whether this may be changing and therefore potentially challenging. For a project manager, continually identifying, assessing and then appropriately managing risk is a daily activity. This can be particularly relevant when success is heavily dependent on the supply chain.
Additionally, their continual review of the project business case and benefits will be an essential activity in order to help the company’s ongoing recovery and success.
Project managers are human too
The experience of isolation that many people have had in recent months won’t have escaped project managers. Therefore, like everybody, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help.
By tapping into their networks, they can share feelings, experiences and talk through the situations they’re facing. It’s a time to be fully aware of their own weaknesses and seek ideas that can help manage them. I don’t know a project manager who isn’t willing to share their experiences – and problems shared can make you more productive.
Simultaneously, organizations’ leaders are confronting a huge amount of change; that ought to increase the value placed on project managers as people qualified to manage such levels of transformation.
As their skills and knowledge will be in demand, project managers would do themselves no harm thinking about adding to their professionalism and capability through training and certification.
It will be the beginning of many conversations with stakeholders, users and technicians about the nature of change for the new normal, demanding an extraordinary level of communication and influence.