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Project management for the ‘new normal’

We live in strange times. Who would have thought last year that 2020 would be the year of Covid-19, the year of lockdown, the year of working from home (at least for many of us)? So, what will the future bring for businesses? Any strategic planning for this year has probably gone out of the window, so organizations and leaders will need to decide on what the new, future state will look like. A structured project management method, such as PRINCE2 can help here as achieving that future will involve a project or a number of projects to deliver that vision and generate value.

PRINCE2 helps to monitor the steps along the way as the path to recovery is unlikely to be static or a straight line.

Learn from experience

It’s important for businesses to learn organizational lessons from what they’ve been through and challenge themselves and their staff to do better. Capturing lessons and learning from experience is a key part of PRINCE2 and there surely were a number this year.

For example, the big switch to new technology that enables remote working and collaboration. How well have you deployed it and how can you improve its use?

Improvement and innovation

PRINCE2 guides projects through their lifecycle in a way that allows business to test innovation safely and make changes as needed. This helps them eventually move from something new to become business as usual if they are successful.

Organizations need to have a way of choosing and testing new initiatives to ensure they are worth investing in. They benefit from starting with small changes so that they can see what works and regain confidence about how to cope with a new or amended business model. Also, the PRINCE2 principle of continued business justification helps with this: ensuring a project’s business case is robust and – if it’s not – it should stop and be decommissioned.

You need to question how the benefits of your projects are going to be delivered. Involve your customers as they will be the judge of value and could also highlight other opportunities. And it’s best to do this in stages so that you can assess the validity step by step and reduce the overall risk to your business.

You can’t delay thinking about benefits to such an extent that it becomes someone else’s responsibility. It’s all about having rigour and being joined up with strategic objectives through monitoring and key performance indicators.

Leaders should also encourage controlled experimentation in the business. Employees deserve to have input into the way the business is going to operate in the future, so it’s necessary to ask them: “are we doing the right thing?”

Sharing leadership responsibility will also enable top teams to face current challenges while preparing the business for future opportunities.

Resilience and confidence

Another really important part of dealing with challenging situations is the ability of leaders to be consistent, visible and competent. This will be particularly important during times of recovery. Resilience and confidence are the two magic skills here.

To find out about your personal level of resilience and confidence ask yourself the simple question: “how do I feel?” And follow-up with: “How comfortable do I feel with the work I’m doing?” This will give you a good indication of where you are.

Project managers very often work under lots of pressure but stakeholders expect them to be 100% “on the ball”. This means you need to show the rest of the team that you are in control. For this you need to have a clear understanding of your targets, your stakeholders’ expectations and what you need in place to satisfy them.

Organizations’ progress will be dictated by successful change programmes, which come from successful projects being implemented. So, doing the best job possible and demonstrating your value to the organization will help your resilience.

The project manager also has to be visible to everyone and be available for whatever the team needs. If this isn’t the case, project team members can start to get worried. And it’s a sure sign that a project manager’s resilience is low. If you go “missing” in tough times, e.g. not attending critical workshops, double-booking meetings or not replying to emails, then stakeholders lose trust in the project manager and this could eventually hurt the project.

For a successful working relationship, the project manager also needs interpersonal skills such as empathy, humility, keeping cool under pressure while also being personally accountable and making others aware of their accountability.

An interesting finding from AXELOS’s Power of Professional Certification research from 2019 is that training and certification improves practitioners’ confidence in their workplace skills. Knowing the project management method you’re using, and having proven that by passing an exam, is a confidence booster.

None of us know what the future of the economy in the post-pandemic recovery period is going to look like as it’s simply very difficult to predict; what you, as a project manager, can do is be your best.

When you can prove you have the ability to deliver in the most challenging conditions, then you are a valuable asset to your company. It shows you’ve got the confidence and the resilience to keep going and get the job done.

Author Bio:

Allan Thomson is a PRINCE2-qualified Project Manager with over 25 years of experience in project, programme management and PMO. Allan is particularly adept at the implementation of PRINCE2 into organizations, Microsoft Dynamics solutions, risk management, business implementation, new product development, business improvement, software implementation and change management.

Allan joined AXELOS in May 2014 and with his expertise supported the PRINCE2 update in 2017. As the global PPM Product Ambassador he is responsible for representing AXELOS’ PPM product suite at conferences and events.

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