Project management fundamentals for times of crisis

By Nigel Glasspool - June 1, 2020

The impacts of COVID-19 require businesses to rapidly implement business-critical projects to retain and re-purpose their most valuable assets and secure the commercial viability of their business. As businesses respond to the dynamic landscape, the suitability of projects must be assessed quickly, and potential risks identified, understood and mitigated.

Whilst businesses may have a workforce committed to change and re-skilling to perform different roles and responsibilities; businesses are unlikely to have a workforce that possesses all the skills necessary to change customer facing and service delivery operations rapidly. As a result, businesses need to work through organisational change using project management methodology to deliver strong commercial outcomes.

Successful projects not only depend on critical thinking and problem solving but also require the application of four project management fundamentals:

  1. planning
  2. coordination
  3. delivery
  4. embedding change

These project management fundamentals are essential to ensure strategic and operational decisions result in desired outcomes and do not create more problems than they solve.

Applying project management fundamentals to workforce planning and management

One of the biggest projects that businesses have had to plan and deliver in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic are adjustments to workforce planning and management programs, which requires strong project management and delivery capabilities. Some of the common adjustments that businesses have made include:

  • adjusting workforce planning and management functions to account for remote working and new service delivery models
  • reworking rosters and staff schedules to align with dynamic demand and operational needs
  • using technology to upskill the workforce to perform different duties and adopt new ways of working 
  • implementing a recruitment program or contingency planning for replacing part of the workforce
  • managing changes to payroll systems to report new leave types and government subsidies; whilst remaining compliant and paying employees correctly
  • preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery to restart or accelerate human resource information system (HRIS), and time and attendance and payroll system replacement projects.

Successfully implementing project management fundamentals

The four project management fundamentals – planning, coordination, delivery and embedding change – apply to a range of projects types. Below is an overview and checklist for each project fundamental so you can assess where your organisation needs to focus its attention as it plans critical projects for the months and years ahead.

Planning

Planning is the first place to start and sets a foundation to help define the full scope, goals and objectives, deadlines and measure of success of an initiative. While it can be tempting to move straight to the coordination and delivery stages of a project, taking the time to scope out resourcing and deliverables effectively results in a more successful project. As your organisation works through the planning stage, some areas your team will need to consider include:


Planning checklist

  • Clearly set out the scope, feasibility, expected outcomes and indicators of success
  • Secured the necessary approval and funding to commence the project
  • Develop a high-level plan of the key activities, timeline and resources
  • Establish appropriate governance, controls and reporting to mitigate risk
  • Establish a project team with the skills, experience and knowledge to deliver the project

Coordination

In the planning stage, your team will likely identify which parts of the business need to be involved in the project. Coordination is required to bring together and direct resources to work collectively to achieve the project’s desired outcome. The key things your organisation will need to consider in project coordination include how you’ll keep the core project team and wider business informed, fostering a productive team culture and establishing effective measuring and reporting processes. Some areas your team will need to consider include:


Coordination checklist

  • Create a daily forum to manage activities e.g. stand-ups
  • Define and socialise the team’s role and responsibilities
  • Create a ‘can do’ culture across the team with people who are effective and efficient
  • Identify, prioritise and resolve issues that impact critical path activities
  • Establish efficient project tracking and reporting processes

Delivery

Project delivery is where the work gets done and encompasses putting your planning and coordination activities into action. Throughout the delivery phase, you’ll work through validating the proposed solution, developing or adjusting solutions, acceptance testing and roll out. Within the project delivery phase, you may work through further planning and coordination as changes are required. It’s important to remember that organisations are dynamic, so your projects need to allow a degree of flexibility. This flexibility often results in better project outcomes. Some areas your team will need to consider include:


Delivery checklist

  • Validate that the solution aligns with business processes and operational needs
  • Establish a realistic pilot program to validate the feasibility of the project
  • Leverage existing skills, systems and technologies to their full capability
  • Develop a test, migration and roll-out plan that fast tracks value to the business
  • Develop a realistic cut-over and transition plan to implement the initiative

Embedding change

Implementing change and new ways of working require people, processes and systems to be aligned. To ensure people don’t go back to old ways of working, your project and its resulting organisational changes need to demonstrate how various stakeholders will benefit. This change management process is critical to realising the benefits of new initiatives, so organisations effectively adopt change, and new processes and procedures are effectively integrated. Some areas your team will need to consider include:


Embedding change checklist

  • Identify all internal and external parties who will be impacted by the project
  • Develop targeted ‘What’s in it for me” communications for impacted stakeholder groups
  • Identify and verify process change that will be embedded in daily business operations
  • Identify training needs for all employees expected to implement the initiative
  • Develop effective learning materials for people to perform their roles

How is your organisation implementing change?

In the current environment, organisations need to utilise resources to their fullest potential. The availability, capacity and capability of these resources will present the biggest challenge as organisations seek to encourage different ways of working to service clients and customers.

If you’d like to explore how you can maximise your organisation’s resources, contact a Pitcher Partners specialist below.


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