Emergency exit? Make it organised

As deconfinments start making room around the world, with some degree of clarity, it is time to put in place project management measures for an organised, to the extent possible, return to office work.

Over the past week I kept getting fellow colleagues questions about exiting this emergency. While my advice matched the situation of each particular project, I noticed are a number of common approaches across industries.

Here are 9 tips for an organised exit:

1. Focus on team members. People will come out of this changed in one way or another. Bear that in mind and pile up on your compassion resources. You may also want to know more about their families and the struggles they went through during this period.

2. Make use of your notes over the past two months. Did you notice new skills and abilities of team members? Is perhaps a rethinking of your traditional project roles timely? For example, if a team leader became more productive during the confinement, he/she might be wanting a more executive role. Or if a software developer manifested leadership skills, he/she might be ready for a team leader role. Did the project assistant outgrow his/her role and is ready for a different role? Look around with your talent-seeking eyes.

3. If you had to cut corners in procurement, which I hope you did not, make sure proper justifications are on record and well filed. Integrity should never be compromised, even in times of emergencies.

4. If you and your teams return to work, you may want to get to there first, to greet and welcome them. If it is your responsibility, make sure all safety and hygiene conditions are met. If there is an Organisation-wide policy, make sure all team members are aware about it. If your team returns to a location different from yours, you may want to order something online to greet them. It could be as symbolic as a new office plant or coffee from a nearby coffeeshop. Good for local business. Great for team’s morale.

5. Revisit the communication channels and see together with your teams which are to be kept and which will be ditched.

6. Make plans. And make plans B. Here is still a lot of uncertainty around the situation. Planning to hold meetings and go on business trips? Leave them for later and watch for border policies of countries of your clients. Some countries have reintroduced visas (e.g. Kazakhstan). Check on those as well.

7. Have a clear plan for priorities on the critical path of the project. Check on your first milestone after deconfinment. Communicate clearly to your sponsor, clients and other important partners.

8. Scan the environment for eventual “under water mines”. Video and audio was great in remote work. Yet these means of communication are prone to breed misunderstandings and frustrations. Simply because the screen makes it harder to interpret visual clues, such as body posture and physical gestures. Make sure there is no conflict in the air. Or if there is, manage it pro-actively.

9. Decide on what kind of leader you want to be from now on: an effective manager who gets the job done or an innovative anticipator?

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