06 Jul Management Skills and Tools for the New, Changing Economy
In today’s fast-changing world business is changing quickly as well, leaving at the end of the “food chain” the ones who are not being able to adapt and follow the pace, embrace the changes, and to foresee the new market trends and tendencies. With Covid-19, and an economic crisis certainly coming upon us, with the dropshipping almost dying with the problems of delivery, decreased demand, but the increased production and shipment costs, we all need some kind of a wizard to take us by our hands and guide us through this process, new and unknown to many. It is not the money that is making the change today. It is the way we manage things. Managers are now becoming the true captains to lead their ship through the storm, or to sink, figuratively speaking.
Having successful agile management is and will be something that will make a change in the future, giving a comparative advantage easier adaptation to the current economic situation and dramatic changes.
And now, since literally hundreds of millions of people are working remotely, from China, Pakistan India, Bangladesh, Philippines, to European countries, up to the USA, project management skills, combined with propel tools, are more needed than ever. Good, proper, time, and tailor-made project management created and specific for each company, is something that will lead the business during Covid-19.
No more generated rolls, principles, old-school management tricks, and the old way of thinking. It’s obviously not working anymore since the system is changing dramatically as we speak, with no one having a clear idea how it will end, and what will be the ‘new economy’ in the end of this traumatic era.
Rapidly changing times require quick thinking, quick adopting and quick implementation of new principles. Otherwise, your company could face a big problem.
By its definition, project management involves planning, organizing and managing work and activities, and in particular, the management of various operations, often different from each other, including communication, time, economic and human resources, meetings.
As the Covid-19 pandemic hugely affects all aspects of our life, it is even harder to do all the project management things, having people working remotely, balancing their existential issues with the pandemic, struggling with professional challenges, and requests .
It seems that we, once more, need to establish the process again within the company: to work with people, to set up a new structure, or update the existing one, to establish or to adopt working processes and to introduce new technology in everyday work. From home.
Aren’t those the proper tasks for a proper Project manager? It’s very challenging, but every challenge is a thing that drives the project manager, pushing them forward, bringing solutions, and bringing benefits to the company.
So now, a new bread of project managers must endorse all those new things, faster than anybody, and address those issues to create an efficient, functional, satisfactory and happy work environment for everybody. Yes, the level of happiness or satisfaction, both of the employees and the clients/customers, is a thing that project management must carefully work with now, having both employees and business owners in a difficult situation, with their specific problems, carefully balancing between the goals of the company, profit making and the employees satisfaction, health conditions… Personal satisfaction is playing a great role now. Having people being satisfied with their work now is half the job done in establishing a functional, profit-making process.
We have brand new challenges here that we have to deal with along the way while learning about the situation and changing ourselves, changing our knowledge, adapting our methodology to new situations, and taking the best out of it.
The market is changing, rapidly and continuously, as well as demand for the good, and modern project managers. Project managers must foresee all the factors that could impact the work, and overcome the obstacles. Otherwise, if the managers do not see the whole picture, they could have their best employees declining in their job performance while working remotely, especially without clear instructions, clear structure, workflow, and preparation.
Business as we knew it had fixed working hours, working principles, organized structures, communication, and organizational tools. Now, all has changed. With people who used to work in their office from 9 to 5, we came to the situation where people are working from their homes, 24/7 practically, being available and doing something at home all the time. And,a general impression and experience during Covid-19 period is, if a company is not properly managed, productivity tails off.
If done and led properly, remote working during this crisis can boost up morale, productivity and efficiency. If managed badly, productivity will hit the rock bottom, as well as the morale, integrity and self-esteem of the workers, leaving the empty shell of the company that was before.
As much as remote work can be fraught with challenges, there are also relatively quick and inexpensive things that managers can do to ease the transition. Actions that you can take today include:
1. Work with people, employees, help employees work efficiently
There is no more face-to-face supervision, and direct information exchange, but, now, there is social isolation, distractions at home, changing working environment and work processes.
The project manager must support coworkers! Establish structured daily check-ins: Many successful remote managers establish a daily call with their remote employees.
Develop and communicate expectations of a “Work from Home” or remote environment
Take the initiative to develop a Communication plan for working within a virtual or remote environment and identify your expectations to the team on how they will operate in this new space. Set aside some time at the beginning of a remote project to identify how roles, responsibilities, tasks, schedules, and deadlines will be communicated to team members and stakeholders.
A communication plan is a critical part of all projects, and even more so essential to the success of a project amidst social distancing and work from home restrictions. The project manager that identifies these challenges and develops a preparedness plan is more likely to continue successful project management, even throughout a pandemic.
Provide several different communication technology options: Emailing alone is insufficient. Remote workers benefit from having a “richer” technology, such as video conferencing that gives participants many of the visual cues that they would have if they were face-to-face.
There are other circumstances when quick collaboration is more important than visual detail. For these situations, provide mobile-enabled individual messaging functionality (like Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc.) which can be used for simpler, less formal conversations, as well as time-sensitive communication.
2. Familiarize yourself and the team with available technology
Introduce new technologies in everyday work with your team, as well as with your clients. Introduce and share your knowledge about the data analyzing with your employees, allowing them to learn and work in programs such as Tableau Public, SAS Tableau Public, SAS, and last but not least, to master the good old Excel and Google document spreadsheets. Of course, there is Jira, Eylean, Blossom, Active Collab, SprintGround, giving your team a chance to collaborate in virtual offices, and for you to follow their progress, as well overall project implementation, and to overcome the actual situation of not being physically together.
The tools and software such as Clutch24, AdEspresso’s Ads Examples, AdSwiper’s Facebook Ad Spy Tool will also help you position your business providing you with an efficient way to explore competition and giving you clear hints about how your competition is doing and what the trends and global tendencies are in your business niche.
3. Data Centralization and Sharing
Amidst the current work from home directive, organizations have no other option than to centralize data, documents, and reports within single information, file-sharing platforms. Productivity tools, including Asana, Wrike, ZOHO One, and Microsoft Power Apps contain word processing, spreadsheet, presentation and database applications, paired with communication and project management tools – providing a single portal shared by team members and stakeholders. The Atlassian package gives you a holistic approach to data management, record-keeping, to follow the employee’s workflow and to communicate inside the project, keeping track of the project progress, having a clear backlog of what else needs to be done. It will ease making documentation and recording workflow documentation needed for your clients.
2. Implement a process for rapid decision-making and planning.
Establish a clear process, daily, weekly meetings, reporting, adapting to new working culture and working environment. Organize your project activities; Track your progress; Get a visual look at your project workflow; Collaborate effectively; Maintain balanced team schedules; Know where your time is going; List down the team’s likes and problems related to the project management process or tool you’re already using. It is imperative to establish a clear chain of command and a rapid response process to ensure swift, decisive action.
Project managers typically assist with the evaluation and implementation of a productivity suite and are most likely responsible for the status of tasks, percentage of completion, and availability of the recurrence needed for the tasks to be completed within the deadlines.
3. Manage workflow and organizational structure
Establish a new structure, with a clear organization flowchart, easy for workers to navigate horizontally and vertically through the company, understanding how it is functioning now.
Use the exact Project management tools such as Miro.com, Gantt charts, MS Project to help you in the process, resource utilization, and planned vs. actual forecasting for projects.
Make a clear plan so you could foresee all key indicators, as well as risk and constraints, and build a mitigation strategy based upon them, so you could be prepared for potential flaws of the proposed workflow and organizational structure.
Make sure you can use tools such as Pipefy.com, and Gorgios.com to import all the business processes in one place, to gather your employees there, to simplify the processes, making them more efficient, easy to track and follow, and easier to identify the problems and impediments.
Those tools will also give you an excellent overview of the urgent situation within your company, with all the metrics, graphs, reports, crosscutting and cross-sectoral analysis, giving you inputs to build even more effective strategy based on this.
4. Evaluate ongoing financial obligations and make a financial contingency plan
The market is now acting differently, so money is not coming as usual and as expected. So, it would be a great moment for you to revise the company finance, to check the liquidity, revenues, and to make some necessary cuts and savings. Prepare and finance strategy with the contingency plan, taking into consideration business slow-down and future market predictions.
Adapt to the situation, by asking suppliers, factories, to wait for you to pay them while you develop and search for new markets.
Establish long-lasting and reliable communication with your partners, so you could ask them for such big compromises and concessions.
While working on finance you could use tools such as Startup Financial Model, Xero, Quickbooks, Freeagent, Freshbooks…
5. Assess current and future supply needs
Search for more reliable suppliers and shippers. Make direct contact with the factory, and create a genuine product, made based on the search on the Amazon, Alibaba, exploring competition. Use the Semrush.com to explore the competition, Sellerapp.com, Sonar-tool.com… Check on the most selling products, products with the best review and highest scoring and then, look for the products, and make an even better one.
6. Understand how to continue business operations
In the end, the first thing you should do is to prepare the Feasibility study for your next project. And then apply for relief emergency funds supporting business in almost every country, either in terms of loans or non returnable funds. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has begun to administer low-interest loans funded by numerous states, counties, and municipalities. Other organizations, like the United Way, have also created COVID-19 relief funds which may provide additional funding.
The feasibility study will make you research new options, engage, explore all possibilities, and it will make you proactive. And that is what a project manager needs to be.
How to make your team work more productively?
Build trust by communicating with transparency. Set more feasible and doable expectations for both you and your team working remotely and under these circumstances. And make sure they understand that, as a manager, you are there to support them, guide them, and direct them. And make sure that employees know what your goals are, too.
Practically, what we should do as a project manager:
Firstly, establish new communication channels using Skype, Slack, WhatsApp, phone, Viber groups, emails, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc.)
Since there could be elderly people in your team, make sure you have clear instructions, with the step by step guides how to use them, to log in, make an account.
Make a communication plan and schedule. You can use Google calendar, Trello, Jira, to make daily calls and to create a routine in communicating with your employees.
After establishing inbound communication, think about developing the best communication channels to communicate with the business partners.
You could also use Asana tools for that such as Slack (because it makes separate channels for every topic) , Zoom, Skype…
Make sure your team has all the necessary technical equipment, adequate personal computers, and well-reliable internet connection. You could use Speedtest.net for that to get accurate data on the internet speed, since it will be of essential importance for all of you to have a stable and fast internet connection
Furthermore, does your team have the necessary software and hardware to execute all their tasks, as well as firewalls and security systems to protect both them, their PCs, company’s data and classified business information.
If not, the Project manager should provide them with technical support, helping them to overcome those problems. For those issues you could use the program Teamviewer, allowing your IT guy to sit back at his chair in his home, and set up the employee’s PC miles away.
Prepare Code of Conduct, how to behave during the meetings using new technologies, such as raise your hand, log in earlier, mute the microphone when you are not talking, use a headset, instruct them to find a quiet place, write comments, write notes, or record meetings . It will allow them to go through all the details once the meeting is over, taking their time to process and understand the tasks upon them.
Make them a short report, bullet points after the end of the meeting as a reminder of why and what they should proceed with after the meeting. You could use Slack or Asana to give them clear instructions once more. Using Asana, they could follow the work process simultaneously with you giving all the insight into the current situation and the work progress of a certain task.
Ask your employees to organize their duties and daily responsibilities. For this they could use Trello, which allows them to make their plan, as well as keep notes.
Make an organizational chart, with all the new structures and people in charge. Also, provide your employees, business clients, and workflow organization chart with the exact process, phases, and the final results.
Establishing remote work is like any other project, so you would need to establish a plan and goals for each task identified. If you want those goals to be practically implemented, especially now, you would need to communicate them with the employees, involving them in a process and taking them accountable for those goals. Of course, set up the appropriate deadlines.
For more detailed organizational activities, you could use MS Project, along with the Gant charts, providing step by step instructions on key activities and their implementation. You could also use those tools to set up the goals of the company and update them, so they could always keep them in mind while working. You should have clear communication with them about those goals and activities leading to them.
Do not micromanage, but empower your employees to make decisions on their own. Provide them with enough information and set up the activities, threshold, limits, on which they could decide without your decisions. But don’t forget to keep track of that, control and monitor the process.
You could use tools such as Asana, Bitrix 24, as well as Pipefy, where you could set up the process, delegate the tasks to them, and get informed after they finish those tasks, or if they come to the point beyond their authority. And then you need to jump in, not before that. Giving people independence to work will bring you more results than watching over their every step and being the watchdog. You will only need to check the milestones and follow the progress reports and receive updates on the progress.
Make sure the employees communicate with each other. Now that will be a bit difficult since they are not sitting next to each other, but provide them with the communication channels, such as Slack, so they could organize between them, and sort all the things they need regarding the job tasks.
Introduce and establish some of the time-tracking methods. You could use Time doctor, Hubstaff, Clockify.com or any other software, giving you a clear insight into what and how much time your employees are spending working, and on which specific tasks. It will also help you develop some more efficient work strategies and deliver the work more efficiently. Make sure the employees understand expectations associated with tracking time, and discuss whether there are any modifications to tracking time needed when working remotely.
Establish the reporting schedule, providing the employees with the reporting template. Both of you could follow the progress in that way and discuss it if there is a need.
To conclude, Project management is alive, it is a changing thing, and even more alive and needed than ever before. And so much more needed now to lead us through this uncertain Covid-19 period. If anyone is saying it is not difficult, they are wrong. It’s giving us more and more opportunities to distinguish our business, as well as ourselves, using different techniques, tools, resources, so we could better position ourselves on the market, to search and find the customers. It provides opportunities for us to be more operative and efficient, and to spend less money doing that.