Project Management and COVID-19

More and more people are trying to figure out how to navigate through the current epidemic, as well as try to plan for afterward. If that wasn’t enough, we are still so bogged down with uncertainty, such as: when we will have access to an effective vaccine? Is there genuinely going to be a new “reality?” Or a new “normal?” All these issues can be overwhelming and tiresome. Therefore, some people choose to do nothing until they get more information, while others sit with all this uncertainty and drive themselves a bit crazy. My advice is to deal with the current situation as if it were a “project.”

Project Management and Covid-19

Some might say a “project,” by its definition, is a temporary endeavor that generates a unique product, service, or result. However, at this time, without knowing when, if or what kind of effect we anticipate, how can we plan for it? This is a valid point, but it all depends on how you define the project and with which outcome. The “result” you might be looking for is simply a “Plan.” It could be “The Plan,” or it could be your “Plan B.” For example, you might be thinking, I want to 1) ensure my business or job survives or 2) I want to start a new career and company or 3), one of my favorites, I want to be part of the solution to the current situation and benefit myself and my community through my efforts.

For the sake of this article, I selected option 2), “start a new career and business,” to explain my train of thought, since that “project” seems to be what is mostly on the minds of people who have approached me. For most of us, the pandemic has forced us to rethink the way we live and work, as well as what we feel is essential in our lives. I think that is common when you are reminded that life is very much finite. Therefore, many people I know are looking at careers that involve consulting, coaching, training, environmental sustainability, or all of the above. It is a way for them to feel part of the solution by sharing their experience, as well as gaining the opportunity to make a living from what is perceived as a new trend.

But again, if we are not sure what the future holds for us, how can we plan for it? The bottom line is we have NEVER known what the future holds for us. The current epidemic has become the manifestation of that knowledge. Therefore, we are not that encumbered by this new development. We can gain an understanding of future uncertainties by identifying new pitfalls and then finding a workaround. For example, as a trained civil engineer who lived in California for more than half of my life, I always found it interesting that after each major earthquake, new standards and regulations would be created. After the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, for example, the State of California mandated that all water heaters must sit on a metal base no less than 30cm high, and be strapped to a wall or other fixed structure. Why? Because so many water heaters toppled over and caused fire damage during that previous seismic event. Therefore, in that same manner, we can look at the actual pandemic, run a gap analysis, and then work towards breaching that gap. For example, it has become quite evident how necessary it is to have money saved up for a catastrophic event, as well as some supplies without turning into a hoarder, and taking stock of our lives, such as how are our most vulnerable community members are being taken care of and what our role and responsibility are.

So back to “Starting a new career and business.” Just like in all projects, we start by defining scope with deliverables and objectives. The objectives, as I have written before, should follow a logical methodology. The most common is the “S-M-A-R-T” approach, which stands for specific (detailed objective, such as I want to become an executive coach,) measurable (through a certification or apprenticing experience,) achievable (aside from yourself, you have resources that can help,) realistic (you have the intelligence, knowledge, capability, and perhaps funds, etc.) and timely (set a timeline for yourself, such as six months or a year.) From here, we can go through all the different knowledge areas of a project, such as budget, communication, and procurement, to name a few. Still, the most critical efforts will fall under “stakeholder engagement” and “risk management.”

In Stakeholder Engagement, you will identify the stakeholders who will support and champion your efforts, such as family and friends, as well as colleagues. Once identified, you can then develop the strategies needed to engage them and help you achieve your goals. These strategies may be something as simple as asking your spouse to help more with housework and childcare while you work on your new career or business idea. Or you may request a trusted colleague with more experience to mentor you. Additionally, risk management will help you address all that uncertainty that hounds you, such as “what if I fail?” or “what if we run out of money?” and so on. In risk analysis, you can do three things that will help address these concerns: 1) define the probability of the risk occurring (10% or 30 or 50% chance,) 2) determine the impact of the risk (high or devastating to low or insignificant) and 3) what you can do to mitigate these risks. Please remember, as always, to also identify positive risks, such as 1) I already know someone who might hire me or 2) there is a chance I can increase my income by making this change. For these positive risks, you will also need to define their probability of becoming real, determine their impact, and just as crucial as with negative risks, develop the strategies to turn these risks into reality.

I can guarantee you that by carrying out this exercise, you will feel more confident to move forward or wait or make adjustments since you will have a roadmap to your goals, as well as a Plan B in risk management, should things change along the way. For assistance or to chat about this process, feel free to contact us.

Project Management and COVID-19

PM Professional Development Europe – Project Management

Workshops for Professional Development