How to Succeed as a Project Manager in the New Normal
In this article, I take a look into the role of project manager in the new normal, what seemed to have worked well in 2020, new challenges for project management professionals in 2021, and how to make the best of this ongoing year as a project manager.
Project Management and the New Normal
Since 2020 the world has changed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many economical, business and social matters that might have been relevant before the pandemic no longer seem important.
Most people in the world have changed their lives to adjust to new habits — and to survive in the new normal. The challenge that countless project managers and PMPs have faced is how to sustain themselves and their projects and teams during these difficult times. How do project managers define these new times?
While the definition of the new normal is up in the air, some things seem certain, including how we socialize and work, and the role of technology in these processes. For example, teleworking has become just one key to maintaining projects and operations.
In a project management sense, the term “new normal” refers to how stakeholders (people and organizations that impact or are impacted by the project) act in a new way of working – now and post coronavirus, taking lessons from 2020 and deciding what to do next and how throughout 2021 and beyond. How stakeholders work, the role of project management in business and social initiatives amidst the COVID-19 lockdown, and the likelihood of similar crisis events happening again are all things that define what the new normal is.
WFH and WFA Policies
In 2020, most organizations had to embrace remote working as the new way to exist and move forward. WFH (work from home) and WFA (work from anywhere) proven to be the most effective collaborative models to manage businesses, projects, and people.
For project managers, remote work means spending a little more time and effort on planning activities and making sure that no loss of communication happens between team members. Also, project managers wanted to ensure that they have stakeholder buy-in and agreement for the product or project being delivered.
Various organizations adopted corporate-wide WHF and WFA policies to establish the rules and regulations of teleworking and remote communication between employees and the business. A specific emphasis was made on enhanced teleconferencing tools to make remote work more comfortable and more effective than ever. This helped project managers a lot.
Actually, some people were happy with the new way of working because of a few reasons like these below:
- Extra time gained from the commute
- Connecting your project, tasks and teammates just from anywhere
- Better work-life balance
- Saving of money and resources
- Lesser distractions compared to office work
However, this transition to remote working wasn’t an easy task for many people involved in project management.
Project Manager’s Challenges in the New Normal
Some challenges started to hit project managers as the new normal started sinking in last year. In 2020, staying engaged with stakeholders was the main challenge for many remote teams and contractors.
Traditional group discussion techniques like workshops, walk-throughs and on-site observations were no longer an option, and decentralized project teams faced difficulties staying connected and collaborating over vast distances and from multiple time zones.
Virtual team management and video conferencing are the most challenging activities for project managers in the new normal, especially when communicating between different cultures and continents.
Besides, project managers face these challenges amidst the global pandemic (COVID-19):
- Getting clear communications with teams, clients, and stakeholders
- Video / voice meetings can get off track at any time
- Getting clear visibility into approval and requirements
- Motivating and building the team
- Managing remote workers and teams located in multiple time zones
- Developing comfortable job schedules and working styles for everyone
- Making everyone be participative in the meeting.
How to Succeed in the New Normal
To improve your project manager career in the new normal 2021 and beyond, pay special attention to these things:
Let’s walk through each of these success practices.
#1. Begin with Your Workspace
Successful project managers are well organized people who promote effective self-discipline and collaboration across their remote teams and subordinates. If you face some issues with your personal or your team’s productivity, here are a few things that will help you improve your remote workspace and get back on track.
Make sure that your workspace at home or any other place of your choice is:
- Comfortable — a work desk with comfortable sitting arrangements in a separate room is fine.
- Clean — discipline yourself to keep your workspace organized and clean. This habit will help you have a productive day.
- Distraction-free so nobody will disturb you during your status meeting, phone call, or else.
- Organized with everything needed for your daily project management job – notebook/desktop, second monitor, peripherals (camera, printer, speakers/headphones), stable and secure Internet connection.
- Have a green and nice view.
#2. Make Project Meetings Effective
Project meetings help keep track of progress and get stakeholders’/team’s accountability and responsibility to stick on to the tasks and deadlines. Here are a few recommendations to organize and conduct successful meetings:
- Have daily catch-up calls to keep everyone updated.
- Get everyone talking about their personal work progress and discussing the issues and challenges affecting the project. Remember that silence kills participation.
- Schedule project meetings with a clear agenda (expectations, success criteria, tasks) in advance.
- Start every session by giving a brief background of the past decisions and discussions.
- Wrap up team meetings with the major issues and agreements.
- Keep the meeting agenda and all the documents needed open in the background during your meeting session.
- Schedule 1:1 weekly/bi-weekly meetings with colleagues and customers to get their feedback and check on status
- Follow WFH meeting best practices (e.g., mute your mic when you’re not speaking and use the chat box to express your opinion instead of disturbing the conversation flow).
#3. Upskill and Get Certified to Keep Yourself Updated
It has already been proven that PMP certifications put project managers and leaders at the forefront in the job market. In the new normal, upskilling is a great opportunity to keep yourself updated and get eligible for the best opportunities and promotions in your project manager career.
Dedicating a reasonable amount of time in your calendar (say, 3-6 hours weekly) to learning new skills, tools, or a certification will do the right job for you. Also, you should realize that having matured and certified specialists in your project team will enhance their performance and make a significant contribution to project delivery capabilities.
Ask yourself, do you find yourself as a successful project manager in a highly competitive world, in the new normal – now and post coronavirus? Do you think you are competitive enough to succeed in project management and gain more advancement in 2021 and beyond?
Remember that certification is the best way to enhance your skills and showcase your expertise to the employer. Get started with self-education and professional project management courses today!
#4. Stay healthy
Remember that your health is top priority, always. No project management career or job opportunity can change this. When you feel healthy, you pass on your positive energy to your team and the people around you.
Keep in mind these recommendations to stay healthy:
- Exercise. Dedicated at least 30-45 minutes 3-4 times a week to exercise to keep yourself physically fit. Exercise will boost your sense of well-being and help release from depression and anxiety.
- Meditation. It’s a self-development habit that helps you remain calm and more mindful among stressful and hectic schedules. Dedicate 20-30 minutes of your time to meditation and emotional control – this way you will stay in emotional control and improve your focus.
- Be more empathic. Project managers must be empathic and responsive in the new normal. Your empathy and soft skills will help you enhance your communication and leadership abilities, which will ultimately boost your influence inside the team.
- Pick up several hobbies that resonate with you making you happy. For example, it can be cooking, music or gardening which can be done without getting out or risking your health.
- Spend as much time as you can with your family. You’re not a robot, you can’t and shouldn’t work unreasonably long. De-stress yourself during weekends and spend great time with your family at home.
Remember that your project team and your family need the most positive version of you – healthy, skilled, empathic, and positive — this is the recipe of a successful project management career in the new normal!