As I am writing this article, the COVID-19 crisis is reaching a global scale, impacting projects and portfolios at different levels. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of noise and misinformation out there—people panicking and organizations reacting without deliberate rational thinking. Here are my thoughts from a project risk management perspective:
Should Project Risk Management Take the Pandemic into Consideration?
Considering we’ve endured pandemics before, this is, in theory, a known risk. But you likely did not include it in your project risk register, as it is very unlikely. In this case, the risk is unknown to you, because you and your team didn’t identify this risk.
Whether you agree or not, I believe that no one in the world was able to accurately assess the impact of COVID-19 before it happened—and there is still uncertainty about its impact moving forward. Consequently, in my opinion, this shouldn’t be part of project risk management. So what can we do?
Portfolio Risk Management
I’ve always maintained that risk management at the portfolio level should take into consideration events with a potential impact on the portfolio’s overall results. For example, if only one project depends heavily on vendor XYZ, then there is a risk to that project. However, if 80 percent of the projects in your portfolio depends heavily on vendor XYZ, this is a risk to the portfolio—and the threat should be treated as such.
We can add up management reserves at the portfolio level to rescue troubled projects. This is more effective than adding multiple reserves to individual projects, which makes them less attractive to the organization and to potential clients.
Contingencies, reserves and risk responses need to be evaluated according to effectiveness, cost, and benefit. In other words, it does not make sense to pay more for the risk response than the amount of risk exposure. Too much padding will destroy a competitive advantage.
The PMO’s Role in Risk Management
Now that we’ve differentiated project risk management from portfolio risk management, let’s talk about the role of the Project Management Office (PMO). A PMO is responsible for continuously monitoring the enterprise environmental factors that might impact the projects and the portfolios of the organization. On top of that, a PMO is responsible for creating a business continuity plan for projects and portfolios.
Working in coordination with other areas, including corporate risk management, the PMO must assess threats and opportunities, and develop a solid fallback plan. Some organizations have done really well during the COVID-19 crisis because their PMOs acted boldly and quickly.
Taking it a step further, many PMOs reevaluated all the projects and portfolios according to changes in the organizational strategy to minimize adverse effects.
Over the last two weeks, I attended various meetings and workshops with PMOs. Some were very innovative in their approaches. Others were more conservative. At the end of the day, the PMO is uniquely positioned to tackle issues that the project managers cannot solve themselves. And COVID-19 is a one-of-a-kind challenge.
How to Conduct a Risk Assessment on the Impact of COVID-19
We can divide the risk assessment into external factors and internal factors. For the external factors, you must assess your country’s or region’s exposure to the threat. According to the simulations, it seems that everyone will be impacted. A lot of people will become infected. And there are economic impacts on a global scale. On the other hand, some countries are better prepared to handle the situation, which means they will be able to recover faster.
Here are the key external factors you should consider:
You might also apply and combine SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) and PESTEL analysis (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental, Legal). Once you understand the external environment, it’s time to assess your organization.
Here are the key aspects you should evaluate within your organization:
Organizational assessment is already going on at all levels. Does your organization seem to be lost and confused? If people in your organization are seriously concerned, but still working diligently to evaluate and to create responses, you are on the right path. If people are panicking and confusion is growing, this is a bad sign.
Finally, let’s focus on individual portfolios and projects. It is possible that many projects will be terminated, canceled or at least paused as the organization tries to figure out how to survive.
Here are the key aspects by which you can evaluate your own projects:
To conclude, I would like to remind you that it is important to be proactive. People expect you to lead during a crisis. Use solid judgment, engage your team, document assumptions, constraints and risks and take action. Taking action is paramount.
Let me know your thoughts. How is your project performing during the COVID-19 crisis? Do you have any advice or lessons learned to share?
By Wanda Curlee
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is bringing international markets to their knees and threatens to cripple project progress at every turn. Each of us has a different response. Some are afraid, some are wondering what all the fuss is about, many are devastated due to loss or quarantine, while others are on the front lines. And I am sure there are many other reactions. How we as individuals—and a global community—react to coronavirus has implications that ripple beyond our physical well-being and mental health. And its impact on projects cannot be underestimated.
For all project professionals, the coronavirus is now a project within your project or program. Based on what your country or business decides to do, a response is inevitable. The response might be shutting down the project (permanently or temporarily), requiring personnel to work from home, ensuring staff has proper safety equipment, reviewing processes that may need to be changed or relaying the latest information from credible sources, among other actions. In the face of coronavirus, project leaders must step up to manage expectations and guide their teams across finish lines that may be shifting. It’s a tall order—but it’s not impossible.
Empower Your Team
As a leader, you must set an example. Setting an example means that you need to acknowledge the situation and demonstrate urgency, while maintaining control over deadlines and team morale. Inside you might be overwhelmed—and that is alright. But be careful not to project those uncertainties.
Lean on the team to determine what needs to be done. Empowering team members will help them to feel like they have some control. Are there individuals who may need to go remote before others? Do they have what is required to go remote? You, the leader, need to make sure that your team is taken care of.
Make a Plan (and Stick to It)
Does your company have a business continuity plan? Do they have a crisis plan? If not, do you have one? Look at the business continuity plan and the crisis plan. Did you overlook anything? We are all human and there is a lot that can be forgotten. Make a plan and follow through.
Once the initial response is made, and the team is working again, make sure that the team has what it needs. Focus on running the project or program, but also put plans in place in case the unfathomable happens: Members of your team contract coronavirus. Maybe you will be fortunate. But you can’t rely on luck. What happens if you get coronavirus? What if other team leads end up with the virus? Have you thought of contingencies? What happens if you have to shut down the project or program? Who in the company needs to know? What will be the plan of attack to try to bring the project or program back to life?
Anticipate Next Steps
Finally, how will the project or program team transition back to the work environment? Will everyone, one day in the near future, show back up in the office? Will it be done in a staggered fashion? How will you handle those employees who still may be sick? How about those who still have kids out of school? Will processes need to be updated based on the lessons learned?
Remember, while this may never happen again, another crisis that may be localized, national or worldwide could arrive sooner than you’d expect. Don’t be caught off guard!
How is your project team navigating the challenges that come with coronavirus? Share in the comments below.
By Jen Skrabak, PMP, PfMP
The future is female—but it appears project management is behind the times.
An estimated 30 percent of project managers are women, dominating administrative (project coordinator) roles instead of taking on managerial responsibilities.
As we look at income, women working in project management around the world rake in a fraction of what their male counterparts earn:
Source: Earning Power: Project Management Salary Survey—Eleventh Edition, PMI, 2020. Originally published in the March/April 2020 issue of PM Network.
Gender inequality in project management is inescapable—but it’s not irreversible.
In a male-dominated field, how do we start carving out an equal playing field for all? Here are seven challenges we as project professionals should tackle to change that narrative:
Earlier this month, we celebrated International Women’s Day and honored the women leading project management into the future. How are you empowering women to grow within the project management field and in your organization?
By Cyndee Miller
The push for women’s equality is a real slog. Based on current trends, WEF estimates it’ll take another 99.5 years to close the overall global gender gap. And as another International Women’s Day lands, it’s tempting to get angry or fall into a funk.
Yet there are glimmers of hope—and change. In 2019, 87 percent of companies surveyed by McKinsey and Lean In said gender diversity is a top priority, up from 74 percent in 2015. Economic parity is no longer some hush-hush conversation that women have with other women.
As is often the case, pop culture is pushing the female power message, with TV shows like The Handmaid’s Tale or Billie Eilish making history as the first woman to pick up the “big four” at this year’s Grammy Awards. Even the James Bond franchise is learning to be more respectful of women, thanks to some handiwork by Phoebe Waller-Bridge (who stakes her claim as only the second woman to get a writing credit in the series’ 58-year history).
Women are driving innovation, disrupting business and changing the world. And many of those women are project professionals. Check out that video above. Those are just some of the powerful female professionals featured in PM Network® in the past year alone. These women are delivering results, whether it was a digital reboot at a fast-food giant or patient-centric healthcare. They get it done. They turn strategy into reality.
Claudia de Moya Partiti Ferraz, PMP, has made her way all the way up to the executive suite, currently serving as CIO of Zaraplast in São Paulo, Brazil. It’s easier than it once was, but it’s “still a challenge for women to prove they are capable,” she tells PM Network®.
McKinsey and Lean In’s research confirm her instinct, finding no decline in the number of women who say gender is a barrier to advancement or who experience microaggressions.
Unfair? Absolutely. But Ms. Ferraz says the best way for women to build their career is to follow the same advice she would give all project managers, regardless of gender: “Remain focused on delivering the project in the best way possible and meeting all the milestones in all your projects.”
Another tip for female project leaders: Don’t be thrown off guard if you’re the only woman in the room, said Asya Watkins, PMP, from EnvisionRxOptions in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. “[Team members] may not be used to seeing a woman leading a multimillion-dollar project,” she says on a new episode of ProjectifiedTM. “You have to be confident in your abilities. Sometimes if you’re not told this ahead of time, it could be a little jarring.”
Ms. Watkins knows the feeling well. She founded the professional network Women Of Project Management because of the void she felt early in her career.
Sarisha Harrychund, PMP, got her own gut check working on Durban, South Africa’s largest infrastructure initiative. “I had to force myself to grow in confidence to voice my thoughts, to assume responsibilities on projects, and to develop a more fearless and agile personality,” she says.
Progress is indeed happening. But now is the time for women—and men—to step up and break down barriers for female project leaders.
Celebrate International Women’s Day by sharing your action plan in the comments.
By Kevin Korterud
When I first started as a technology project manager, it was not uncommon for a project to have just one deliverable. All of the tasks in the project created the path that led to the single deliverable, which in many cases was a program, report or screen. Life used to be so easy!
As projects became more complex, the need grew for multiple project deliverables that lead to a complete solution. Deliverables now represent the “building blocks” that form a key foundational element of any project.
Whereas scheduling tasks is a fairly straightforward process that involves capturing durations, resources and successor/predecessor networks, scheduling deliverables comes with its own set of complexities. Deliverables don’t always behave in a linear manner like tasks—so special considerations come into play with their scheduling. In addition, there are typically people and expectation factors that need to be part of a deliverable scheduling model.
Here are three essential reminders for properly scheduling deliverables:
Whereas tasks are singular items that stand alone in a work plan, deliverables have a few extra packaging steps in their path to completion.
One of the most dangerous scheduling mistakes to make with deliverables is to have a single task in a work plan that represents the deliverable. This is because of the variation in duration and effort that it takes to complete a deliverable.
Deliverables have a natural path to completion that involves a package of tasks, whose dynamics differ from normal tasks in a work plan. Project managers need to include these extra tasks that chart the lifecycle of a deliverable from initiation to completion.
For example, a sample set of deliverable task packaging would appear as follows:
You can tell from the above table that prior to scheduling deliverable task packages, project managers need to have a deliverable governance process in place. A deliverable governance process that identifies specific deliverable reviewers and a single approver are key to the effective scheduling of deliverables.
2. Deliverables May Require Task-like Linkages
We are all familiar with creating predecessor or successor linkages between tasks to form a linear series of work needed to achieve an outcome. Those linkages serve to drive schedule changes as prevailing project conditions occur.
Deliverables can require the same sort of linkages found in tasks. For example, if you have deliverables that lead to the creation of a marketing web page that involves multiple supplier deliverables, selected tasks in the deliverable package can contain task linkages. These linkages impose conditions which determine the pace at which related deliverables can be completed.
Let’s say there are three design documents from different suppliers required to create an overall design document. The build of the overall design document cannot finish before those three supplier design documents are all approved. So in the work plan, delays and schedule movements in the supplier design deliverables will drive the true completion date of the overall design document.
In addition to the scenario of having deliverables with dependencies, it is just as likely to have a set of deliverables that do not have any dependencies at all. These deliverables need to be completed by the end of the project but do not directly figure into the final outcome of the project. These are often process improvement deliverables that are needed for future projects that are not ready for execution.
When a project manager has a slate of unrelated deliverables, the optimal approach is to bundle them into agile-like sprints. The content of each deliverable sprint is determined by a balance of resource availability for the people who build, review and approve deliverables, as well as any form of relative priority. For example, if deliverable reviewers have low availability during a scheduled deliverable sprint, those deliverables can be pushed to a subsequent deliverable sprint.
Priority can also determine the content of deliverable sprints. Higher priority deliverables would displace lower priority deliverables to future sprints, even if work has begun on those deliverables. For example, if there is a strong need for a certain tool to be used by multiple projects, those deliverables would move into the current deliverable sprint. The deliverable sprint process allows for agility, while balancing value created from the deliverables.
As I shared earlier, life was so much easier when projects created one deliverable. Different times demand different approaches to managing deliverable schedules—especially on large transformations where there could be hundreds of dependent and independent deliverables. The last thing anyone wants to do is insufficiently manage deliverables: Leaving out one of those “building blocks” might cause the house to fall over.
What tips do you have for deliverable scheduling in today’s project ecosystem? Share your thoughts in the comments below.