How to be an indispensable PM during a pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic has made the work environment challenging to say the least, as offices around the world mobilize their workforce to either work from home, or redirect their attention to other areas of the business. In many instances projects are placed on hold and resources, including the PM are either told to take leave, and as is the case with most contractors, let go entirely. This in turn causes its own set of challenges. All of a sudden we are no longer office based, and have to deal with the plethora of negative news and still focus on the well being of our loved ones. If you look at your training as a project manager, would you say that you are prepared to negotiate the oncoming twists and turns? For the seasoned campaigner more than likely for those just starting out its sink or swim.

One thing about being involved in a global pandemic, we are all in this together, and a lot of the outcomes are based on ideas from many different areas whether they are locally or globally, if a good idea to maintain project delivery is shared via a social media mechanism then it should be seriously considered. As the stakeholder is still concerned with the positive outcome of a project, because once the pandemic has subsided then it is all hands to the pump. So during this time it would be a good idea to ask the stakeholder how they would prefer to receive information. The more an individual stakeholders requests can be catered for the more value is being provided to them, remember they are feeling as anxious as you are.

Maintain relationships with the client and the overall team as best as possible, working in isolation, or remotely, doesn’t mean that information also has to be remote. Establish more one to one interaction, be empathetic, and listen to needs of the team. Make special effort to make contact with them on a daily basis, this could be via a daily “Stand Up” or an email which is not work related but care factor related. Try and use the avenue which would be best appreciated by the team members, and the client for that matter, you will only work this out if you ask.

Being concise, that is clear, sharp, frequent communication needs to be delivered, and try not to over communicate where possible.  Being face to face with team members and stakeholders in a room is priceless, but not mandatory. Use “check-in” and “check-out” during important project meetings to ensure that participants deliver and receive exactly what information they came to the meeting to give and receive. This also provides a crystal-clear readout for meeting recaps. Also, be cognizant during calls that many resources now have more than one distraction when working from home that is with spouses, children and pets.

There is no one clear approach which is best in a situation of this nature, quite frankly this is a very uncertain time, and none of us are in a position to understand the full consequences of what the work environment and project delivery will be like once life both at home and in the office returns to some normality. Also what will be normal given that during a pandemic projects were still being delivered via mechanisms available at the time.

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