Coronavirus’s impact on the world is such that few people would be surprised to learn it affected project management. Surprisingly though, no such thing happened. A crisis that has gripped nearly the entire world for the better part of 16 months doesn’t seem to have slowed project management one bit.
Some might argue that project management is mostly digital in the modern era, making it less affected by coronavirus and lockdowns. Still, the projects themselves should have been affected, right? Apparently not. The Project Management Institute’s (PMI) Sunil Prashara told recent attendees of the International Forum on Project Management that project completion actually improved in 2020.
On Time and on Budget
The Janiko Group is an Atlanta-based consulting firm that specializes in project and coordination management services. They say the two biggest hurdles for most company projects are time constraints and budgets. Finishing on time and on budget is the veritable project management holy grail.
According to Prashara, some 73% of all businesses met their project management goals in 2020. That compares to just 69% in 2019. He went on to say that 20/20 projects “were more likely to be delivered on budget and on time.”
It is hard to come up with a single reason explaining why this is so. Nonetheless, project management was not slowed by coronavirus. What companies did last year laid the foundation for Prashara’s contention that project management has to go beyond agility now. He used the term “gymnastic” to explain what he meant.
Immediate Response to Change
Introducing agility into the project management environment was intended to streamline tasks, save money, reduce project times, and solve problems like budget and scope creep. Agility has done everything it was expected to do. But apparently that’s no longer enough. Prashara and the PMI believe agility must transition to immediate responsiveness.
Agile project management is absolutely more flexible and responsive than waterfall management. Still, there is often some lag time between where a project is and where it needs to go under the agile model. A gymnastic model would dictate that a project be able to immediately respond to challenges. It would be able to pivot on a dime and start or stop on demand.
The idea of gymnastic project management is rooted in the belief that what we are now experiencing in everything from business to culture is the new normal. Some would bristle at that thought. Accepting something as the ‘new normal’ implies that it is less than ideal. Whether it is or not, the implication behind a new normal is often negative.
Whatever It Takes Management
One of the positives to have come from coronavirus is the understanding that there isn’t just one way to do things. We have always known this instinctively, but far too many businesses have stagnated over the years. They have not embraced new ways of doing things because they got comfortable in the old ways. Coronavirus changed that.
In the project management arena, things changed when people stopped showing up to the office. Daily status meetings in the conference room gave way to zoom meetings from kitchen tables and living room sofas. Discussions over the water cooler were replaced by emails and phone calls. And yet, things still got done.
A lot of companies have learned to do whatever it takes to get their projects completed on time and on budget. Often times that means dispensing with one of the traditional project management methodologies and going with something completely different. In the end, that’s really what Prashara is referring to when he talks about gymnastic project management.