Project Management – What changes are here to stay?

As we’re living through a pandemic for the second year now, each one of us faces numerous challenges. The coronavirus (COVID-19) burden truly tested the ability of both companies and their employees to effectively deliver results.

According to PMI research, as many as 6% of all the qualified respondents (the survey was sent to 10,000 people from the PMI’s database) have lost their jobs as a direct result of the COVID-19 crisis.

Legacy of COVID-19

The fact is that the pandemic has had very different effects on different industries. As some struggle to survive, others thrive.

With everything going remote, COVID-19 heightened all the small issues and inefficiencies we used to tolerate in our day-to-day work. 

This added pressure made us understand what could be done better while forcing us to create solutions to detect and solve any irregularities within current processes. 

As we’ve seen, flexibility and resilience became the two most important qualities all companies need. In tough times, they are crucial in driving necessary internal changes or coping with external ones. For that to happen, project management, portfolio management, resource management, and PMO are now more important than ever. 

What’s next for Project Managers?

First of all, we need to be aware that regardless of the current situation there will be complex, large scale projects that need to be managed. These projects that typically require more thorough planning and project managers with particular skill sets, now have the added burden of the pandemic.

This might be the reason that the demand for PMs is predicted to grow. PMI says that by 2027 employers will need nearly 88 million people in project-related roles. As the business environment is getting more and more global, digitalized, uncertain, so will the scope of activities that these PMs are handling. What the business world needs now more than ever is the adaptation of leadership styles during different phases of projects. 

The true value of an experienced and adaptable Project Manager has really been brought to the forefront. 

Project leaders who have seized the moment and the opportunity to incorporate new tools and new practices will have more chances to continue to make progress. Any adaptive leader can now recognize that not only the goal is important, but so is the pathway towards it.

What changes are here to stay?

The first change is most definitely the shift in communication both within teams and with outside participants. This was something that was required since practically all communication went from in-person to remote in a matter of days. It became more flexible to accommodate various realities people were now facing.

The hierarchical distance between people has also softened, creating more flat team structures. By serving as coaches instead of bosses, PMs increased the dedication, engagement, and productivity of their teams.

The COVID-19 circumstances triggered problem-solving creativity but, it has also questioned the business justification of the ongoing projects. A stronger need for determining actual project value emerged through the necessity of reviewing project portfolios due to the economic impact of the pandemic. This more thorough approach is likely to stay as it brings more stability to the recovery and growth after the pandemic ends.

Risk management has received much more attention than before as well. Previously set up risk programs are given a second look to determine if they meet the actual needs and expectations of all stakeholders – customers, employees, the board, vendors, partners, investors and society at large. 

When asked about the future, many PMs stated that more professional development opportunities was the change they’d most like to see in the following months. They believe it would help bridge the gap between where they feel they are at the moment and where they should be in order to manage project activities as they are today.

The go-to way for handling future change

When choosing what positively contributed most to a newly settled way of life and doing business, we’d have to go with the willingness to change.

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates

The hybrid approach this created is definitely what helped projects stay on track. Decisions had to be made under uncertainty, with both short-term and long-term goals taken into account.  Adjustments sometimes needed to be done daily based on the pandemic indicators and holding on to the more traditional PM practices simply wasn’t viable.

If anything can be pinpointed as positive, it’s that many organizations have recognized and quickly reorganized their activities to respond fast while keeping their eye on long-term success. Agile practices will become the norm to keep teams aligned as new challenges emerge.

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