By Peter Tarhanidis, Ph.D.
Never has the new year’s greeting “wishing you health, wealth, and prosperity” rang truer. Over the last several years, we have all lived through uncertainty. This year, we hoped to lurch out of a post-pandemic crisis into a new normal with a vibrant outlook…yet quickly staggered into a slipping economic uncertainty that sharply cut short the prospects of our envisioned “normal” state.
JP Morgan’s 2023 economic outlook for the United States indicates a slowing growth rate, monetary tightening, and curbing inflation, while healthy consumer and business balance sheets could offer some growth prospects. The Conference Board observes longer-term geopolitical, environmental, labor, and inflation risks beyond 2023.
Many organizations will ebb and flow within this shifting cycle. Organizations that are well-positioned will have a better chance to adapt to the external challenges of shifting global markets to meet customer needs. They must simultaneously find the agility necessary to mitigate the internal challenges of a reduced workforce, increasing costs for goods and services, climbing interest rates, and the overall health of a company’s finances and workforce. This will challenge organizations to stay focused and chart a path forward.
This is reminiscent of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew of the Endurance, which embarked on a daring expedition from the UK to Antarctica and the South Pole in 1914. Along the voyage, the crew became stranded for over two years. The Endurance became trapped in the ice while the crew waited 10 months for spring and the warm weather to thaw them out—only to be horrified by shifting ice that damaged the ship’s frame, finally sinking her.
To survive, Shackleton mounted three lifeboats to traverse 800 miles of open sea to reach help on South Georgia Island—then return to the makeshift camp to rescue all 27 men who suffered frigid conditions, hunger, chaotic seas, and mental distress. This journey is one of the greatest examples of leadership, grit, and epic survival.
In order not to succumb to the current economic and global undertones, leaders must:
Project leaders have always been confronted with the likelihood of project failure—yet they have developed a track record of delivering results. Project leaders are adept at converting strategies into clear tactics, ensuring team and stakeholder alignment, and executing projects to achieve the goals. At the core of the project leader’s success are the character attributes of authenticity, trust, resilience, focus, and courage.
What else can you do to support your teams and move forward during this year’s challenges?
Building Team Synergy and Resilience
Human Aspects of PM,
Categories: digital transformation, Agile, Human Resources, Portfolio Management, Best Practices, Human Aspects of PM, Facilitation, Roundtable, Strategy, Mentoring, Career Development, Stakeholder, Innovation, Change Management, Leadership, Lessons Learned, Program Management, Benefits Realization, Complexity, Talent Management, Teams, Programs (PMO)
By Peter Tarhanidis, PhD
As the pandemic stretches on, work-from-home programs continue to keep teams working virtually. During this time, we have performed courageously to deliver our strategic and business outcomes. Here I will share a select review of advice from industry experts as they explore how to build a post-pandemic response strategy.
According to McKinsey (2022), organizations have pivoted to deliver sustainable and inclusive growth toward building a better world. And Harvard Business Review (2020) notes that all types of companies have navigated the pandemic by pivoting their business models in the short term to survive—becoming more resilient in the long term.
Yet not all pivots generated an improved business outcome. Three trends in particular can help ensure a successful pivot:
PWC’s Global Crisis Survey identified three key lessons that businesses can adopt for long-term resilience:
An opportunity, therefore, exists to consider how to prepare your team’s competence in driving synergy and resilience in order to lead post-pandemic growth strategies—and simultaneously pivot from those same strategies.
Here is a shortlist of what leaders can do to prepare for a post-pandemic recovery and support an organization:
In the end, the teams that are ready to execute and can pivot as necessary will be ready for the post-pandemic competitive environment.
Let me know if you have uncovered additional successful strategies—or any pitfalls to avoid—in building team synergy and resilience.
AI To Disrupt Project Management
Nontraditional Project Management,
Human Aspects of PM,
IT Project Management,
Categories: digital transformation, Human Resources, Nontraditional Project Management, Portfolio Management, Tools, Human Aspects of PM, Generational PM, Facilitation, Cloud Computing, Strategy, Career Development, Stakeholder, Innovation, Change Management, Leadership, Program Management, Complexity, Ethics, IT Project Management, Talent Management, Teams, Education, Programs (PMO)
By Peter Tarhanidis, PhD
Technology has demonstrated tremendous benefits and efficiencies (many of them unstated) over time. The technology lifecyle enhancements that started with our initial computers, software programs and the internet of the past have given way to the modern-day cloud, Big Data and artificial intelligence.
Throughout this maturing landscape, technology has affected all industries—especially how we collaborate. According to Peng (2021), here are some key impacts to consider:
Project management has benefitted from the overall technology lifecycle, either by implementing aspects of it or by being a user of its collaboration outputs. Yet project managers are at the doorstep of being part of the next wave of AI disruption.
What a PM organization must consider is the methods and concepts used in managing past programs and become proactive in shifting to an AI-enabled PM organization. There is no doubt that the role of PMs and our methodology will be augmented with AI-enabled assistance.
PwC identified five areas of AI disruption and decision making in project management:
To prepare for these changes, project managers should:
In order for these changes to emerge, there are a few considerations that may hold one back from the changes—such as organizational readiness, employee skills assessments, and the state of technical tools.
PwC outlines a change approach to assist in the transition that relies on updating project management strategy, leveraging technology investments, integrating digital and AI, and a comprehensive communication plan to generate awareness through adoption by the future project management workforce.
What other approaches have you used—or should be considered—to manage AI disruption in project management?
By Conrado Morlan
In project management, communication is a core competency that significantly impacts the outcome of a project. Most likely, you have worked hard to master your communication skills. Then all of the sudden, the way we communicate changed. The style had to adapt, evolve and amplify with the support of technology during the pandemic.
We were accustomed to more traditional ways of communicating, such as in-person meetings (with groups, or one-on-one with stakeholders), spontaneous conversations around the office, and conference calls, among others. But most of these methods were totally erased when, by necessity, we started to work remotely.
In a matter of weeks, we had to close the communication gap by learning on the fly how to use new technology tools featuring virtual rooms with a mosaic of participants, featuring screen sharing, tool chat, or instant messaging (IM). We faced the challenge of having to define new rules of communication and common ground (like having cameras on or off during the meeting, and muting your microphone if you aren’t talking).
In just a few months, we adjusted to a new way of communication: online calls instead of phone calls; recorded online meetings with automatic transcripts instead of handwritten meeting minutes typed out afterward; more IM communication instead of email communication.
For many project managers who are still remote, this continues to work well; for others who have returned to the office, they are starting to readapt to (or are missing) the “old way of communication.”
Readapting to the “way things were” won’t be an easy task. Many people have lost that sense of personal interaction, and it is becoming more difficult to bring several people together at the same time in a meeting room to discuss the project. People’s preferences have also changed, and many prefer a virtual meeting as they think that there will be no difference to a meeting’s outcome if the meeting is in-person or virtual.
Perhaps the outcome of the meeting will be no different, but what about in-person human interaction—a key element for communication? Reading non-verbal cues is becoming more difficult, a valuable element that will confirm if a “yes” is truly a yes or instead a “maybe.”
As a project manager, what has been your biggest challenge in adopting and adapting the “new way of communication” in your projects?
After a recent project progress meeting with my team, one of the senior members and I discussed the face-to-face communication challenges we have with other members. We concurred that when the person receiving the information has low retention, it results in false assumptions and a misunderstanding on the topic of discussion.
Why is this happening? If the person receiving information confirms that everything is clear, why do we still have communication issues in projects? Usually, it's because taking notes in a meeting is going away, as many team members wait for a meeting recap that summarizes their action items.
In face-to-face communication, we spend most of the time listening—and apparently, we're not good at it. We filter what we want to hear, and that may result in a broken message.
That senior member of my team is part of the silent generation. He mastered his listening skills in an environment without all of the ways to "replay" conversations that we use today. In addition, he mentioned that the communication environment before was "less polluted" than today, where we are bombarded with things that affect our ability to pay attention.
I asked the senior team member what the key elements of good listening skills are, based on his experience. He recommended:
What are the face-to-face communication challenges you have experienced with your team? Do your team members pay attention when you speak? What advantages and disadvantages do virtual meetings have?
by Christian Bisson
For far too long, I've seen new teams being set up with barely any time allowed to actually enable their success. There are many aspects of creating a new team that people forget or underestimate, and it can create short-term and long-term problems.
With all of the different topics the team should cover at the beginning, an effective setup could easily take two or three full days.
Here are several aspects that should be included:
Meet & Greet
If there’s one thing I've seen being left aside because "it takes time we don't have," it is allowing the people who will work together to actually get a chance to get acquainted with each other. This is an important aspect as it helps to build trust among team members, and trust is the foundation of any efficient team. Trust will not be built overnight, but planning a team-building activity to allow people to share about themselves will at least give it an initial boost.
The team-building activity can take many forms. Regardless of what is chosen, it should be something anyone would be willing to jump into. Some people will be shy at the beginning and not everyone will feel very open, so make it something accessible.
Identify a Framework
Another important aspect is to identify the framework the team will be using. Is it scrum, Kanban, waterfall? Typically, this is already decided. Assuming everyone is an expert in the framework, the team just "jumps" in it. It's important to plan time for training on the topic, and a decent training could easily take a full day or more.
Let's use scrum as an example. Training should include an overview of the framework and other aspects like the roles within a scrum team, backlog management (ex. writing user stories, how to properly split them, etc.), how context switching can affect productivity, etc.
Discuss Ways of Working
Along with the framework, there are other aspects that the team members need to agree on. These will vary depending of the framework and the team's circumstances, but here are a few examples:
Agreeing on these can easily take a few hours depending on the size of the team and the maturity of good practices.
Clearly identifying each team member’s skills is likely the most forgotten aspect of setting up a team that I've seen so far, and yet it's crucial to:
Once this is mapped, it's easier to plan accordingly on how knowledge will be gained. For example, if a technical skill is only known by one expert among the team, it could be planned for that person to train the others. It might be knowledge about the system the team will be working on that will require ramping up. You might also notice that some expertise is completely missing from the team and needs to be acquired from a source outside the team.
Having the team discuss what skills are required, having them map out their strengths and weaknesses, and then discussing next steps is not in itself very time consuming, yet many teams skip that part and thus risk hitting roadblocks along the way.
I've written a few examples of what should be part of a team setup agenda. You can see that for it to be an efficient setup, the team will need time—which will pay off immediately. So "just do it!"
How are you setting up your teams? What topics are necessary?