22 September 2020

As someone who sometimes works separately from some clients, vendors and team members, I was well acquainted with facilitating meetings in an online space, using online tools to track progress. However, Covid-19 meant that all communication with all stakeholders – clients, regulators, team members and vendors – moved to the online space.

The changes in approach were significant. There was much adjustment. But as someone who is passionate about engaging and collaborating with stakeholders (it is my belief that this is the difference between success and failure in projects) – I noticed that engagement increased. We all became a little more human.

During Covid, I have successfully (at this point in time), begun, maintained and closed a project. That success I believe, is that despite our increased workloads on the job and off, the engagement with our stakeholders was virtualised, but prioritised.

Every client meeting, every team meeting, every call with a vendor followed a similar structure (not led by myself):

  1. How are you?
  2. How and where are you working?
  3. How are your family and the other people around you?
  4. What added pressures do you have? Are you coping?

And people were genuinely interested in the answers. There was a feeling of connectedness despite the physical separation. That Covid had taken over the world, but that we were all united in our approach to succeed despite it.

I discovered more about people during these conversations. Information that may not have been shared pre-Covid. I learnt about people’s working situations, other work pressures, and how they liked to work. I listened as they described what they missed in the office, and what they enjoyed about being at home. We shared more of our views on people, and process. I learnt more about their risk tolerance and approaches to management generally.

I also learnt things that were more private – we talked about worries about elderly relatives; additional pressures with home schooling; and sympathised with those who had relatives overseas who they may not see for some time.

This insight helped us to humanise our projects, and understand each other more, leading to better project co-operation. It was easier to call out and mitigate risks, collaborate and explore opportunities, while implementing efficiencies out of necessity.

Sometimes this meant calls out of hours for those juggling kids, or recognising that stakeholders were working with new external access restrictions, or that they were in the trenches with business continuity plans. But by working responsively and flexibly with each other, it was much easier for us to achieve our one joint goal – project success.

Covid-19 has been challenging. But my faith in humanity continues, along with a reaffirmation that engaged stakeholders, collaborating in a responsive manner, are key to a successful project.

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