I wrote this piece couple of years ago https://myprojectdelight.com/2016/08/01/resilience/. I still rely on the same guiding principles.
These past two weeks, I have been contacted for advice on what to do with projects in these new and unexpected circumstances. Crisis management, here we come.
While my advice and tips matched the variety of situations the projects were in, I noticed several common take aways:
1. Damage control and remaining in control are strongly interdependent. Analyse what you can control and acknowledge that you cannot control the pandemic and its extent. Unless you are a project manager in a hospital in an epicenter.
2. Analyse your project’s work plan/charts and be honest about what can be done in the period announced by the authorities if your country is in a confinement/quarantine. Have a plan B and be ready to change it, as things evolve. Communicate it well to all concerned: sponsor, stakeholders, providers, consultants.
3. Check all your contracts, the obligations part in particular, both yours and the other parties’. Now it’s the time for forgotten or overlooked things to come to light. Get the help of your organisation’s lawyers, if needed. Check the clauses on causes for suspension and delays for payments. Notify the other party, if required so. For new contracts, check what you can agree on and sign electronically.
4. Now it’s the time to move online if you have not done it yet. There is a variety to choose from, from Trello, Monday, Basecamp to Zoom and clouds. Make the technology work for you.
5. Teams will watch you for cues. So, control yourself, by distinguishing your fears from facts. Acknowledge team members’ fears. Offer a mirror of calm. Help when you can. Summon all your empathy and compassion.
Over the last two decades, I worked with numerous project managers from different industries and the ones who are rock strong share a number of things in common. Now more than ever these habits will be tested and new ones will be developed. I’ll leave these ones below for now:
1. Mentally strong project managers practice self-awareness. They know that mental strength is their choice which requires commitment and a big sense of humour. They prefer self-irony to ego.
2. As they are building on self-awareness, they remain pro-active. They will pick up the phone first. They own the mistakes and failure. They act responsibly towards the team, the client and the sponsor.
3. They practice humility. They are humble enough to acknowledge that there are things they cannot control. They will however take seriously damage control. They refocus their attention on the things they can control and take the team through this. They care about what the team and the client thinks. The rest is a facebook thread to them.
4. They say “Hello, gorgeous!” to the unexpected, and projects by definition are plentiful of those. They know that even with the best of planning skills, there is a great deal of unchartered waters. Mentally strong project managers are as flexible as a willow and turn adversity into opportunity to bring return on investment.
5. They are best pals with risk management. They will ponder, calculate, analyse, involve others. They will put people first and thus sleep well at night.
6. They put relationships first. They know that reports, deliveries and milestones will become past. Relationships last.
7. They keep things in perspective and share it with others. They will respond to a colleague’s call for help and give the best of advice they can.
I’ll just leave this here for good use. Especially during these remote work days, when emails replace in person conversations.
When putting words in writing is hard these days (for old reasons+all these current unknowns), offering to talk in person at the first chance to get in person is an honest response. It shows respect by acknowledging respect and it give time for things to settle and/ or perspectives to change.
all credit goes to Dan Donovan (copyright).