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Project Management as a Tool in the Times of COVID-19

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There are small battles we that we win or lose daily and that cause us to grow professionally and personally.

COVID-19

COVID-19 has taken us all by surprise. It has forced us to change our daily routines and to isolate ourselves from the rest of the world. Simultaneously, COVID-19 has caused well-founded fear for finances on a personal, corporate, and national level. All of us are being affected in our business in one way or another.

Despite the viral outbreak, many of our jobs still move through small projects and larger initiatives that build towards our business goals. There are small battles that we win or lose daily and that cause us to grow professionally and personally. Naturally in times of crisis, we become more sensitive to details such as risk management, adequate resource management, and internal and external communications. Anxiety and fear over what we see happening around us makes us more aware of failure and  the inherent resistance to change and can generate further anxiety. To recalibrate, there’s a lesson we can learn from Winston Churchill’s words, “Success consists of going from one failure to another, without losing enthusiasm.” Essentially, we need to win the battle in our minds if we are to win it in any other field. We are now seeing our projects changing, being postponed, and maybe even being canceled more than ever before. Despite anxieties, good and consistent project management guides us in processes on a daily basis. There are three essential project management tools that can be useful as we navigate this process together:

1.   Interaction with Stakeholders

2.   Internal Planning

3.   Communications Management

1.   Interaction with Stakeholders

It is all about defining and identifying precisely who our business stakeholders are. On the surface level we think about stakeholders as customers, employees and suppliers, but it essential that we dig deeper than that. For instance, when defining and identifying customers, we should examine in detail what our customers’ businesses are, what generates their incomes, who are their suppliers and customers, and what is most important to them. Once in place, we can then construct a database of those customers, suppliers, advisors, consultants, collaborators in general and in details, in each case making connections along the chain of relationships to identify areas of impact.

During March 2020, S&P Global published an analysis of the industries most affected by the COVID-19 crisis, and now businesses must look for similar information and patterns at the local level in order to identify risks. If we analyze the sources of income of our customers, suppliers, partners, consultants, etc., we will be able to grasp a clearer view of their current situation and challenges. This way, we can generate support chains, new alliances, linked cash flows, and exchanges and/or renegotiations in order to face this or any other crisis and to “flatten the curve” for reactivation. Risk assessment of customers and their chains is risk assessment for your business too.

2.   Internal Planning

Relates to analysis of internal company finances. During crisis situations, it is likely that business cash flow is affected, and we must pay attention to those realities. Once that analysis in complete, we need to ask hard questions. What projects should change in terms of their scope, term, or priority? Are more resources required for business operations? Can bank lending or lines-of-credit fill any gap? Should plans be modified until a more stable cash flow is generated? Based on analysis of our stakeholders’ risks and our internal finances, expectations as to accounts receivable and the path forward can be managed and shifted, if necessary. Negotiation and honesty will be critical to the process of ensuring our businesses can cope with their obligations. The sooner we come to terms with our reality, the greater room for action we will have. It is crucial to remember that no plan is static, and all plans should be revisted and updated on an ongoing basis.

3.   Communications Management

Instituting a strong and active Communications Plan with company stakeholders is vital. For instance, keep open lines of communication regarding new business situations. Make clear whether offices and facilities are open as per usual or whether the business is operating remotely; and if operating remotely, make clear the best means of contact. This may require flexibility as compared to more standard means of connection, but we must not lose the positioning we have achieved with our customers. Stay in touch clearly and with frequency.

In times of crisis, we often are forced to step outside of our comfort zones to support our businesses and communities. However, using targeted project management via the tools outlined above, we will learn, evolve, and keep the spirit of our businesses and communities alive so we can transition back to a semblance of normalcy as soon as possible.

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