COVID has changed the communication experience
Tom Waddell interviewed Jonathan Flachman recently around what we have learned when it comes to Project Management under COVID-19. That interview created the genesis for this blog post and if you want to watch the video, please click here.
To begin with, some things have not changed. Communication is still the best currency a project manager has at their disposal to help manage the people in their project. This looks very different in an environment within a COVID-19 experience than it did before. Project managers used to be able to manage by walking around and stopping at the cubicles and offices of the key people on their project to check-in. Now, they are managing remote teams so they have to catch them on a Zoom or Teams call. Or even go a step further and create a specific tie to connect, investing more energy in connecting with the project manager’s team members.
The risk of losing the human connection
The challenge this provides is two-fold. By putting a camera and screen between us – or worse, a text message stream – we risk losing some of the human connection. No longer do we see pictures of their family on their desks or connections to their life outside work. The other challenge is that life can be messy. While working from home means you no longer have to take time off to allow someone to come repair your furnace or wait till you go home to do laundry, it also means that pets and family members can wander into a video call with the executive team!
We have found it works really well to embrace it. We are getting to see beyond the pictures on their desk and into our team members’ lives. This gives us a way to embrace the human connection. Work to be personal on their level. One thing Waddell Group’s project management consultants have noticed among teams we have worked with is that teams who existed pre-COVID tend to do better than teams created during the COVID-19 experience. This is because they have built the existing relationships that allow them to be personal in ways that are difficult when making new relationships through a camera and a screen. We have found it is important to be intentional in forging relationships. Specifically, learning what is important to them personally and their communication style and preferences.
Communication is key in Project Management
Communication is vital and we have more tools than ever at our disposal to communicate. There are a few lessons we’ve learned along the way for using these remote communication tools to forge and maintain solid relationships when managing a project.
First, return to the existing idea of managing teams by walking around, and instead alter it to the specific considerations of remote communication, such as establishing a routine of chatting with people on a consistent basis. Click through the members of your team and have short check-in video calls with them. And remember to be personal as well as professional when you are talking with your team members.
Second, make sure team management tools with low barriers to entry. Make it one click to get on that video conference call. Make it easy to get updates from your tools. Look for easy visibility across the project and team management tools you use so that everyone can be aware of the progress being made on a project.
Finally, make it convenient to live within the tools you use to manage your project. Prior to the COVID-19 experience, many companies were not serious about using their project or task management tools, such as the Asana app, ToDo service or the Basecamp app. But without the ability to manage by walking around, companies are far more serious about using and living within those tools.
In summary, communicate. We all know how easy it is to have two people having very different opinions on how an email can be read. This is even more true when it comes to a text or Slack message or a quip in a project management tool. Your remote communicate twice as much as you think you need to, using more than one channel to transmit that information. Ask many more questions to make sure you are on the same page as your project members. And remember to connect with them personally.
Contact the Waddell Group
We provide strategic level project leaders for the medical device industry. Beyond essential project management skills, our highly experienced consultants know how to lead teams, manage in times of crisis, and influence change. We can help get you on the right track with our project management team, just take a look at our work and see for yourself. Contact the Waddell Group today to get started by calling 952.221.3333