In a previous article, I discussed the COVID-19 crisis from a risk management point of view. As PMOs around the globe work through the pandemic, unexpected challenges continue to arise. Countries are implementing several restrictions, as extreme times call for extreme measures to contain the disease.
It is expected that many teams will be working remotely for at least four to eight weeks. In a push to stay connected while working remote, PMOs are relying on communication and collaboration tools. But is it enough?
Working from Home Is Different Now
Although many organizations are accustomed to flexible and remote work, this marks the first time that we have seen virtual teams operating on a global scale. And we’re not talking about the traditional home offices we once knew. Project professionals are quarantined, which means they are working with their spouses and kids nearby—and sometimes even babysitters, nannies and home maintenance staff are part of that equation. Keep in mind that your team members are very concerned and stressed at this time. And while they may be out of the office, they are part of a completely different team at home, which comes with its own set of challenges and needs.
In a meeting with my team this week, I level set with them. I don’t expect my team to put in exactly eight hours each day. It is okay if their kids show up during conference calls and meetings, and they can set an unavailable status in case they need to take care of personal or family duties. Cultivating a great team spirit and reinforcing an environment of accountability strengthens team morale.
Operations and Projects Must Go On
If we all stop working, companies may not survive. In fact, a number of companies have already shuttered their doors for good ahead of the pandemic’s peak. Everyone is forecasting difficult times ahead. And it is our duty as directors and managers to make rational decisions and to plan diligently for the future. That said, what happens to our projects?
From a portfolio management perspective, we are going through deep reevaluation due to major strategic changes. Projects were canceled or paused and investments were postponed. But we also have incoming and extremely urgent projects.
Organizations implemented their business contingency plans, and many resulted in additional projects. It could be a project related to supply chain and vendors, IT systems to enable remote work or new product development, among other initiatives. As the crisis looms, these projects become even more urgent.
Be Realistic When Planning for New Projects
As we plan for these urgent new projects, we must be very careful. We must take into consideration high risk and uncertainty and pay attention to the estimates.
Remember that people are not only working remotely (which is already a challenge for some organizations), people are quarantined. I advise you to develop a solid plan based on requirements and deliverables prioritization, understanding you might have to adjust planning to overcome bumps along the way.
Estimates and buffers are crucial. Something that takes two weeks to get done when we are collocated might take more time virtually. Therefore, during this period of quarantine, plan for more execution time.
Capacity Planning and Resource Utilization Are Crucial
During this crisis, capacity planning and resource utilization are extremely important. Imagine your team as traffic on a highway: When traffic is high, a minor crash might severely impact traffic flow. Now imagine all the people are distracted and in a hurry at the same time. You might end up with multiple minor crashes that add up to total failure in delivering the urgent project you need right now to overcome the coronavirus crisis.
In order to be successful, PMOs and project managers are tracking resource utilization with more details during the pandemic. Here’s what you can do:
The aforementioned steps aren’t some big secret. They are more sensitive now. Unfortunately, some organizations are responding to the crisis with too many uncoordinated initiatives that will result in more harm than good. If we want to overcome the project impact of COVID-19, it is time to conduct:
To conclude, do not forget that your team members are quarantined. It’s not business as usual. That means lower productivity and some availability obstacles.
How is your PMO navigating the COVID-19 crisis?