Project Management: A COVID-19 Story

In early March 2020, the possibility of everyone working from home was turning into a reality- a nightmare for the corporate world. The banking industry, that truly values human interactions, was trying to come up with the best solution for the employees to work from home. Mid-March, the Canadian banking workplace came to a grinding halt as everyone was asked to start work from home.

Having worked in the Project Delivery world for over 10 years, this situation wasn’t something I was comfortable with. My normal day would involve conversing with at least 20 colleagues — resolving issues, getting updates, and briefing the executives. The biggest unanswered question was how do PDMs(Project Delivery Managers) take what they do the best and move everything online?

Two months later — it was amazing how quickly successful PDMs adapted to this new style of working and delivered exemplary services. Below, I have tried to capture what helped in the transition.

Establishing Collaboration Tools and Guidelines

One of the most critical things that enabled a seamless transition was using a collaboration tool that created a virtual workplace for all colleagues. Here, I will like to give a special shoutout to Microsoft for their ‘Teams’. This tool is not just a messenger tool but also provides a wide range of functionality like live meeting and editing, task assignments, and providing feedback and praises. This beautiful software helped in creating a cadence that provided seamless integration to easily identify and resolve issues, meet deadlines, and deliver on time.

Summary: Identify a collaboration tool that helps in providing a platform for the team to come together.

Automated Tracking and Responding

The essential mandate for all PDMs is to ensure the successful delivery of the project/program they are leading. In the COVID-19 era, the project timeline, financial, and resource tracking becomes even more critical. Due to the increased workload that everyone is facing, it’s understandable that people lose sight of the bigger plan. The ownership of resolving this and keeping the timeline and plan in check should be with PDMs. The solution to do this effectively is to bump up the time PDMs would ideally spend on tracking these items and use time/work tracking tools like Jira, Excel macros (among others) to automate this task. This upfront investment will reap benefits in the long run and provide a lot of relief when the work gets crazy.

Summary: Invest in automation tools to help in tracking project progress

Increase Your ‘Facetime’ with Management

Instilling confidence in your senior management is crucial in such unprecedented time and warrants extra caution from the PDMs. During the normal time, this would be achieved by having an ‘update’ meeting with your executives or senior management. In the new normal, I will recommend having smaller yet frequent meetings (perhaps a bi-weekly 5 min touchpoint) with your executives to provide a quick update and answer any questions they might have. This will ensure a higher degree of confidence in your ability to manage your project and make your executives comfortable.

Summary: Have more frequent but shorter touchpoints with your senior management.

Take a Break

Lastly, meeting deadlines, resolving issues, and churning out thousands of pages of documents while fielding countless questions from your peers and managers can become exhausting and challenging. This can directly result in the ‘burn-out’ of an employee, affecting professional and mental productivity. To avoid this from happening, I will recommend taking breaks during and after work which will allow you to rejuvenate and refocus once you are back. This can be anything from going out for a run/walk or doing a 10 min meditation. The idea is to achieve what a ‘coffee break’ with your colleagues would do when you were at work.

Summary: Plan and build a ‘break’ in your daily life to ensure the sustainability of your productivity.

This period has been something far from ideal but as humans, we have overcome bigger challenges and strived through tougher challenges. By being adaptable and resilient, we will overcome this pandemic and be back at work soon. Until that happens, let’s use the tools and techniques mentioned above to continue to add value to your business.

Thoughts?

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An expert in Program Management with over 12 years of work experience. Passionate about everything tech. Borderline coffee- addict

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Krishna Pandey

Krishna Pandey

An expert in Program Management with over 12 years of work experience. Passionate about everything tech. Borderline coffee- addict

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