24 Mar 2020

Staying Positive and Moving Forward in Uncertain Times

Staying Positive and Moving Forward in Uncertain Times

There’s no question that the start to 2020 has been unpredictable and unsettling for many.  Bushfires and now the coronavirus (COVID-19) are driving economic uncertainty, putting new pressures on project management professionals.

As leaders whose role it is to motivate and guide workers – uncertain environments with rapidly changing requirements and outcomes increase the importance of project managers to keep a team on track.
While it’s always good to remember that these times will pass, here a few points to keep in mind as we work our way through 2020.



The amount of anxiety and stress that is building in these times will likely have an impact on some, if not all of your project team members - even if they are not directly affected. Everyone is likely to be a little more on edge. So paying attention to how people are behaving and feeling and making sure you act with empathy and communicate often and fully will be key.


Your team will have questions. Is the project still going ahead? Are we losing budget and resources? Will I still have a job? It’s likely you won’t have all the answers and it’s ok to be upfront about that in a calm and measured way.
Do encourage project sponsors to share as much about any changes or impacts as soon as they can. Foster and encourage a two-way conversation between team members and decision makers. There is nothing worse than feeling helpless or ignored when everything is in flux around you. Plus you never know where a project saving idea may come from.



With the coronavirus (COVID-19) already impacting the ability to travel or even the ability to work from anywhere but home, your team members will look to you for different ways they can stay connected, communicate and travel digitally.
This may mean more than setting up video conferences. It will be important to consider how information and data can be shared richly without the benefit of first-hand experience. There are some powerful digital tools and infrastructure available to support these kinds of interactions. In extended uncertain times these tools will deliver on the upfront investment.
Beyond technology, altered working arrangements that are more remote in nature could impact the best way to deliver on a project. Take the time to review and assess your approach in terms of communication channels, data and information sharing.



If your projects are impacted - it’s likely you might need to make some rapid course corrections. New challenges may emerge for which there is no standard way of doing things. Or equally - the usual way of doing things doesn’t seem to work the way it used to anymore.
This is your opportunity to be creative and problem solve for the new reality. In times like these most of us don’t have all the answers. So go ahead and put your skills and experience to work in new ways and collaborate with project sponsors and team members. Be flexible and open to new ideas - no matter where they come from.



Dr Paul Steinfort, Managing Director of PSA Project Management has spent a lot of time working in communities following some of the worst natural disasters in recent memory including in Mallacoota in Victoria, post the bushfires.
His research and experience finds that “post-disaster sustainable projects and programs
need effective, aligned, community driven processes”. He also finds that “Understanding what communities define as a successful outcome also enables strong project monitoring and evaluation pre- and post-disaster, as well as any challenges to health, sustainability and resilience.”
There are lessons to be learned here for the project management professional working through the aftermath of big disruptions or impacts from any one of the current uncertainties in the world. Keep in mind that your workplace or project team members are a community with shared goals and experiences. In times of recovery and rebuilding - involving them and taking into account what’s important to them will be key to their engagement and commitment.  



Yes, things might feel like - or actually have - altered dramatically. But the key is to remember that project management best practices still apply. Being creative and agile or changing up a project – doesn’t necessarily mean changing the underlying project management processes. Your people will take comfort in their familiarity.
Finally - as we said upfront – remember - this too will pass! So above all - stay positive.