In these pandemic times, I’ve found opportunities to do professional development. These include reading books, blogs, white papers and engaging in professional social media posts. Topics have been wide-ranging; from PMO creation & operation, to leadership, to creating your own personal “Code.” I’ve also joined a couple networking groups with diverse members from different industries.
Questions I’ve read and heard from others frequently is, what does the future hold? How will our industry change? What adjustments can we make now? What disruption will there be to the way we do business? How will my business survive?
Someone asked me in a networking meeting how the project management industry will be “disrupted” by COVID. Good question. But, if you think about project management, we’re all about change. We work with teams to deliver new services, functionality or products that our customers and stakeholders utilize. There are constantly evolving frameworks to learn and possibly implement in our companies. AI and other technologies will continue to evolve, changing the scope of our jobs. We’re constantly interacting with a variety of people and personalities, as well as dealing with issues.
Yeah, we’re used to this change thing.
As I thought about how to answer the “disruption” question, instead of looking at what will change, I focused on what will stay the same. What do we, as project professionals, do today that will be just as important (if not more important) in the future? How will we adjust to what the future holds as the work from home model will become more and more the norm? Below were the thoughts I had in my response.
Team Communication; both 1:1 and as a group. Your project team is critical to overall success. They’re an asset. You probably already had in-person team meetings before, but they become even more important remote. Allow time for “small talk” in your virtual team meetings so relationships are fostered and maintained. Outside of team meetings, touch base with team members 1:1. Some are loving working from home. Others aren’t. Know who’s who and spend a little more time with those who are on the struggle bus. But, touch base with them all individually and remember, be flexible as they could be in different time zones (or countries).
Stakeholder Engagement. You never want to hear the words “I don’t know what’s going on!” from a stakeholder. I’ve learned the hard way if you don’t keep your stakeholders in the loop, they can kill your project. The PMBOK outlines a matrix you can use for stakeholder management. I use OneNote and identify their likes, dislikes and any other projects they’ve been burned on in the past. Know who to send status reports to and who needs a phone call because they don’t read reports. It will save you headache in the long run.
Strategic Alignment. This is always important. Why do a project when it has no strategic value? But if your team is completely dispersed, you may get asked to lead an effort with little more than a “get this done” email. Ask questions and ensure you have clarification on strategic value because you’ll need to communicate that with the project team and stakeholders.
Negotiation skills. Defined, negotiation skills are qualities that allow two or more parties to reach a compromise. When I need something and you have it, I need to negotiate to get it. We’re shooting for a win-win. Negotiations can be difficult when we can look directly into each other’s eyes, but becomes more challenging when remote. Keep communications open throughout the process and be open to different ideas as you work to finalize the negotiation.
Conflict resolution. I call conflict a “growth industry” because it’s always there and you’re always dealing with some kind of conflict. Whether it’s passive or aggressive, it must be handled quickly. Employing tactics like having “adult conversations”, bringing in third parties and in extreme cases, removing team members, are tactics that have to be employed. Conflict is uncomfortable, but necessary, even in remote teams.
Overall soft skills. Soft skills include things like verbal and nonverbal communication, emotional intelligence and awareness, writing skills, and approachability. Motivate your team, especially in difficult times, and be a critical thinker when issues arise. Even if you’re mad as hell on the inside, keep calm on the outside. Be flexible and open to other people’s ideas.
Will industries change post-pandemic? I’m sure many will need to adjust. Will the field of project management change? The answer is always yes. But, when it comes to interpersonal and communication skills, not only will those be “evergreen”, they will need to be honed.