Project Management

The Project Manager’s Survival Guide to Leading Teams During a Global Pandemic

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Categories: Project Leadership

By Marat Oyvetsky, PMP

Global companies often struggle to get international projects across the finish line because they have to mitigate risks or issues that are outside of typical budgeting and resource availability constraints. In many cases, companies must work through issues such as language barriers, cultural differences, varying time zones and international team cohesion. All of these can cause serious delays in successful project completion.

However, when a global pandemic strikes that quarantines a large portion of the planet, new risks are introduced that can completely derail or destroy a company’s international projects.

While the COVID-19 pandemic introduced challenges in completing many international projects on time and on budget, it didn’t completely eradicate the finish line for many international projects.

Here are a few tips to consider when working to successfully complete global projects during a pandemic:

1. Seek out executive sponsorship: Every project has stakeholders who will be the main champions for the project’s successful completion. During a global pandemic, it is even more vital to ensure that there are executive sponsors involved in the project. The crisis has affected global manufacturing, the global supply chain, banking and a horde of other institutions that projects and project teams depend on to complete tasks and reach milestones.

During the pandemic, executive sponsors can provide support and quick approval for additional budgets and emergency funding that can help projects stay afloat and allow the most vital projects to be funded to completion.

2. Adjust hardware lead times and balance international resources: The COVID-19 pandemic has affected nearly every business around the globe, from slowing down the supply chain to completely shutting down many factories. This has impacted hardware lead times, from computers to network systems. Instead of measuring shipping in days, companies were finding that lead times for hardware delivery had either been postponed indefinitely or been delayed by weeks or even months.

Reviewing all lead times across every global project, project leaders can work to prioritize projects that are vital to the company as well as those that have workable lead times and can still be completed, even with an extended deadline. Working with executive leadership, project leaders can also prioritize which projects need the most resources globally and help refocus attention to those projects to help drive them to completion.

3. Increase team meeting frequency: When running international projects, many project leaders manage resources in a matrix environment globally. This means that there are resources on the project team that are internal company resources as well as external customer and consulting resources. Communication is vital to ensure that all tasks and milestones are coordinated and completed efficiently within the planned time and budget.

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown extreme chaos into project timelines and budgets. Project leaders can communicate more effectively with the global team by planning shorter but more frequent meetings. Increasing the recurrence but decreasing the meeting duration can improve communications between all company resources. Tasks and milestone assignments can be reviewed quickly, assigned or reassigned, as well as updated and forecasted to ensure that the entire team is not only in lockstep daily and weekly, but is also prepared for the extended lead time durations, project timeline baselines and changing budgets.

4. Balance the portfolio: COVID-19 has impacted nearly all global project timelines due to its effect on the global workforce. Project leaders will need to work with executive leadership to identify projects that fit into two categories: projects that are vital to the business and projects that can still be completed, even with increased timelines and dependency lead times. Once these projects are identified, project leaders will need to work with their teams to ensure that resources are balanced appropriately across the portfolio, targeting the most strategic projects with the most realistic completable timelines.

While the pandemic has crippled the global workforce and economy, project leaders are still leading international programs and projects to successful completion with global teams working together through extended timelines, adjusted budgets and augmented requirements.

Share below: What are your lessons learned from leading international project teams during the pandemic?

Posted by Marat Oyvetsky on: May 18, 2020 01:11 PM | Permalink

Comments (11)

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Thanks for sharing., very interesting.

Okay, I agree and can apply the idea to my projects. In fact my company works in regional and on national basis, I shall adapt it even at a country level also. i.e. I shall use the concept.
Engdaw Admasu

Agree about increasing the frequency of meetings and Microsoft Teams has been absolutely fantastic!

When we are all working from home now, if we can, we are all missing the coffee talk conversations and the conversations that we randomly have while walking through the office. It's important now to find other ways of communication and keep the progress moving forward.

Very interesting, my team is having more meeting frecuency with less duration. The milestones are on a basis of three weeks look ahead. Thank you

Very interesting, Thank you for sharing

Thanks for share a very interesting topic. Keep it up. Thanks

Great post. I would also stress the need to increase communication with ALL relevant stakeholders (internal and external) and keep them updated on status of any delays. Best to try to retain trust through these circumstances. Great post, thank you!!

Very relevant topic, even as we try to enter the New Normal. Increasing the frequency of meetings makes sense, given the reduction in face time. However, what tends to happen sometimes is increased fatigue due to the sheer number of meetings. Can be subtle, but devastating over time.

Marat, I'd have to agree with Stephen in that retaining trust through these circumstances and increasing communication with all stakeholders is crucial. And, like you mention, executive sponsorship is crucial. No doubt meetings are good, as long as they are not too many to overwhelmn the work at hand.


THanks for sharing !

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