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Author  Emma Arnaz-Pemberton

Director of consulting services – Wellingtone Project Management

November 18, 2021 |

 4 min read

  • Blog
  • Project management
  • Risk management
  • Programme management
  • Skills

The challenge of managing projects and programmes successfully is only one of the significant things to change in our working lives over the the past 18 months.

Change has been immense, in so many respects:

1. Employers and employees – a new world

    The relationship between employers and employees has changed hugely: from the historic command/control approach and 9 to 5 office life, overnight people were working from home, juggling home-schooling and other life pressures.

    Companies have had to react in a way they’d never done before – giving people more freedom to manage their days and time off, requiring unprecedented trust on both sides.

    However, the price has been a lack of preparedness among some leaders to lead and manage people from a distance. In relation to projects and programmes, this has led to demand for sponsorship courses, helping bosses to understand how their role has changed.

    2. Rise of technology

      Many employers have now recognized they can’t assume people will just figure out how to manage the various collaboration technologies we now use. At worst, employees weren’t given the support or change management to operate in the virtual world. That said, many have proven that remote working is not going away.

      3. Risk management and training

        For most organizations, a pandemic wasn’t on their risk register. This has prompted an increased demand for risk management and risk training. Risk management is now being taken more seriously as a strategic discipline, over ‘something we have to do for project management’.

        4. Projects and programmes

          Overall, I believe that organizations’ change initiatives have gone well and it’s surprising what people have manged to deliver. From a PMO (project, programme, portfolio management office) perspective it is important now to see if teams can pragmatically look at each touchpoint with projects and, if they have delivered without a degree of them, streamline project and programme management (PPM) practice.

          5. Mental health and resilience

            Organizations have had to acknowledge that the past 12 to 18 months weren’t easy. Not everyone is able to show resilience and we’ve learned a lot about mental health.

            If an organization has been resilient and supported its teams, then people are more likely to have developed resilience themselves. Others struggling to adapt have probably witnessed more staff discomfort.

            6. Skills development

              There is more online training and learning than ever before and people are taking the time to learn or do something new.

              Organizations are showing a real interest in developing their people professionally and personally, with demand for change management, risk and PMO training. These human elements have sharpened for many companies throughout the pandemic.

              How will organizations function going forward?

              For projects and programmes, PMOs will be looking at how they do things and questioning whether every governance point is necessary.

              And now that many organizations have streamlined their offices and use of business travel, their focus should be more about people and services rather than cost cutting. This should feed into talent development, maturity assessments and creating a roadmap for the future.

              However, there will need to be a balance between people working remotely and together in a workplace. The culture and human connection the latter creates is still important and is reflected in the people who are ready to return to co-working.

              The times when I feel, as a predominantly remote worker, that I’m just working for the cat has reminded me how powerful it is being in a room with colleagues; being part of something bigger than just four walls.

              Therefore, in our business, we’re not reducing office space but shifting to hot desking. And people close enough to commute are invited into the office on a Friday for meetings and spending time with colleagues, supplemented by a social event for all staff every two months.

              Creating a better work-life balance mirrors the attitude of the latest generation coming into the workforce, with their emphasis on positive relationships and looking after the planet.

              Organizations can’t assume that everyone wants to go back to the way it was before. So, it's about sympathetically introducing people to the new normal – a sometimes imperfect place, but a more human one.