7 new rules of project management
COVID-19 has greatly affected the future of work and how teams collaborate to get projects done, resulting in significant changes in the skills and strategies necessary to succeed as a project manager.
The past year has led to major changes in the way people work. Before the pandemic, according to a recent study by Pev Research, about 20% of adult employees worked from home. Today, that number is 71%, and 54% of them want it to continue. The pandemic has accelerated what is beginning to look like a mass migration of office workers to distributed, remote work settings. This has affected every worker – 1.25 billion worldwide.
It is a huge change that has led project managers to strive to find new strategies for maintaining projects, and workers to be healthy and productive in the midst of the stress and chaos of this great change. And not just project managers. Everyone is struggling to keep work on their way. According to Asana’s research, we spend 60% of our time coordinating work, and not on qualified, strategic jobs that we are engaged in.
What are the new project management rules and what new skills do project managers need to progress?
1. Clarity is elusive — and expensive
One thing became apparent last year: Cooperation without physical proximity means that it is harder to achieve clarity. Asana’s study Anatomy of Work found that every fourth deadline is missed every week due to a lack of clarity.
The quick transition to work from home moved everyone to isolated workspaces, connected only by the Internet – a dangerous situation in which every member of the team could quickly become a silo for information. Early in the pandemic, Zoom Meetings provided some remedy as to a substitute for face-to-face meetings and quick conversations, but a year later, it is clear that we need better tools to clarify who does what, when and what the big picture looks like.
A study by Asana found that casual conversations in the office to speed people up to have been replaced by unnecessary video meetings at a high cost. Meetings interrupt focused work and take a lot of time. They cost 157 hours of individual productivity last year and led to people working an average of two hours each day with a delay. Project managers and information technology directors are trying to implement new tools and methods that bring clarity without paying such a high price.
2. Your ‘source of truth’ has never been more important
There is a wide range of project management methodologies, and although each offers its specific benefits, the key is to choose one and dedicate yourself to it all.
This source of truth can be a central project management tool that provides a job management framework, or it can be a project manager in a leading role or a work philosophy.
“The old rule could be: ‘Do it, no matter what is needed, and the new rule reads:’ Let’s agree on how we look at this and put it in a frame. ‘ “
3. Synchronous communication is a scarce resource
One thing she taught us last year – often the hard way, in missed deadlines and lost productivity – is that in the new world order, synchronous communication is a precious commodity.
In the new world, you can’t count on people being at their tables at the same time. You can’t count on them being in the same time zone. Some could work late at night, others early in the morning. Perhaps a schedule of child care or household chores should be considered.
All this adds one brutal fact about teamwork: gathering everyone at a meeting is expensive. It will bother someone, add to the already existing epidemic level of combustion, and suck the time out of already overworked working days.
Project managers need to adopt asynchronous tools that not only help achieve clarity but also better facilitate asynchronous communication.
4. Your work plan must be debugged
Creating a complex work plan requires a lot of work. One mistake, in the middle of hundreds of planning lines, could easily disrupt all or part of a project and cost an entire fortune. And the chance that someone will notice that mistake before the deadline, or something completely deviates from the rails? Infinitely small.
Why? Because no one ever corrects mistakes in the work plan.
Once a plan is built – even when it is complex, expensive, and involves a huge number of moving parts, contributions, milestones, and results – it is followed on the assumption that it is flawless.
5. Everyone is a project manager, now
In the past, project managers have used factors such as budget, resources, and rough estimates to determine how long a task will take. This new set of managers relies on experience, knowledge of the people doing the work, and knowledge of the mental impact of each task needed to determine the duration and timelines. It turns out that these may be better measures.
Once you begin to understand people and consider them people rather than resources — and try to think of ways to circumvent the problems and uncertainties of the case.
6. The project manager has become ‘The Negotiator’
As projects become more complex and companies increasingly focused on building sustainable growth in the new climate, the project manager fell to become not only a planner but also a negotiator capable of bringing competing factions, work teams, distant associates and jointly investing stakeholders as the plan would progress. The role of the project manager is evolving and negotiation skills are becoming increasingly important.
In the old work paradigm, the project manager set plans, encouraged people, checked that everyone was on the right track, and organized meetings to keep everyone informed. But you can no longer rely on physical presence to create synergies, there are more moving parts, and those parts don’t always talk to each other.
It is now a more targeted approach. So, even when you don’t have that 20-person meeting, the project manager ensures that those 20 people have one source of truth.
7. Emotional intelligence is project management essential
When people work in isolation, family life interrupts them, and they record long and unusual hours. As a result, project managers increasingly need to step into unfamiliar territory to get projects back on track. One really important skill that project managers now need is emotional intelligence. Not everyone on the team is advancing in this new distributed workforce. Younger workers and parents are especially struggling. Millions of women left the workforce because they could not reconcile work and children.
The project manager must enable and constantly strengthen the psychological security of the team. They need to create a safety net that gives people the opportunity to feel comfortable sharing ideas and different points of view, without fear.
Increasingly that means the project manager acts as a sort of therapist, identifying what looks like stress and reaching out and helping team members to work through it, prioritize, understand that what’s going on is okay with the team, and to help find resources or a suitable schedule so they feel safe at work and able to come to work.
“The leader can make a big impact by using these facilitation skills.”
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