Straight Talk on Project Management

Post pandemic procrastination

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Is post pandemic procrastination paralysing progress in your projects?

Are you making the right decisions, doing the right things at the right time, to get maximum value from your IT Project? Or is the era of post-pandemic procrastination robbing you of the best business outcomes?

I recently had a virtual meeting with an IT Project team who are facing some challenges right now, but the most interesting part came not as we discussed their issues, but in that small talk period as you wait for everyone to join.

Two of the attendees and I were talking about how fast the year is going and how, before you know it, it will be Christmas and then time to make New Year Resolutions. At this point, Josh, a PM, probably in his late twenties said, “I don’t make New Year Resolutions, if something needs changing, I do it now. Why wait?”

As others joined the call, each guest joined in, shared what their resolution for 2022 will be. One after another, they listed the weight loss, the healthy eating, the saving money, the quitting smoking, the year without booze, the exercise, the travelling … and as they shared their visions for their better selves I reflected on Josh’s question, “Why wait?”.

As we got into the main reason for the call, addressing those project challenges, it became clear that postponing change and resolving to change things at some point in the future was not reserved for the team members’ diets, health and wealth. There seemed to be a culture of procrastination.

The challenges that this team was up against were not new, they’d had them before, each time they found a temporary workaround, but didn’t really resolve the problems for the future. 

I regularly glanced at Josh and his frustration at all of this was tangible!

Post Pandemic Procrastination  

Post-lock-down I’m hearing this often. A handful of IT Project contacts have told me that they are taking longer to make key decisions than they did before the pandemic. Previously, they would have not hesitated, some are even losing sleep over decisions. While I only have this anecdotal evidence in the IT Project world, there have been studies that suggest procrastination is a wider problem, a phenomenon that is not exclusive to project management.

Clearscore, the credit marketplace, carried out a survey that revealed a third of us now mull over choices longer than we did pre-pandemic. Less than a quarter consider themselves to be decisive and more than half say that indecision causes them to delay taking necessary action – or even put it off altogether. Admittedly, as I say, this is the population as a whole and not our profession, I’d like to believe more IT Project Managers would consider themselves to be decisive – and yet I still hear from friends, colleagues, and clients about increased decision postponement. So, why? There are three clear threads:

1 – The Stakes Are Higher

Certainly, post-pandemic, the relative cost of a wrong decision is higher than it was before. Many Project teams are dealing with reactive rather than proactive projects right now. As my friend Malc puts it, “It’s the difference between choosing, at your leisure, which fire extinguishers to buy for your office and deciding which one to deploy on the inferno of flames that’s engulfed the office.”

I like this metaphor, choosing fire extinguisher types for the relevant fire could literally be the difference between life and death. No single extinguisher can be used to tackle every fire, each type of fire extinguisher is effective on different classes of fire, selection can be a minefield.

When choosing which extinguishers to have on site, you look at what materials are in the area to be protected. Class A, for combustible carbon-based solids like paper, Class B for flammable liquids like petrol or diesel or oil, Class C, for flammable gases, and so on. You have time to do this.

In a fire, you have less time! All the fire extinguishers are red!! Only a small, coloured band indicates the type of fire extinguisher – red for water, white and red for water mist, cream for foam, blue for dry powder, yellow for wet chemical, black for CO2 extinguishers, etc.

IT Project Management decisions right now can be as combustible! Make the wrong choice and it can feel like you’ve tackled a chip pan fire with a water fire extinguisher!

The key, of course, is to get expert help. When sourcing the extinguishers, you don’t buy them from the cash and carry, you call in a specialist provider to scope out your environment and advise based on their experience and qualifications. In the event of a fire, the advice from the fire brigade is still “Get out, stay out, call the fire service out”.

In IT Project Management, the experts that can come and help scope out your project portfolio are on the same number as the best people to call to fight a metaphorical fire – that number is 01623 723910.

2 – New Methodologies To Get To Grips With

Some of the indecision I’m hearing about is down to teams using alternative methodologies, usually, teams that are used to waterfall adapting to agile to deliver projects of a more reactive nature. 

The good news with this type of indecision is that it will quickly pass. Think about when you buy a new car! How careful you are on that first drive home from the showroom, how every gear change feels different, the bite of the clutch, the position of the indicators, the controls for the radio. You soon get used to it, but initially, you don’t worry about switching radio stations or adjusting the heating – you just concentrate on not crashing your new car! You get home and read the manual and within days or weeks, it feels like second nature again.

A new methodology is like a new motor, you’ll soon have the feel of it. The trouble with changing IT project methodologies though is that, right now, you don’t really have time to read the Haynes manual – the results are now, the decisions are now.

Again, especially with the increasing popularity of hybrid approaches, seeking expert help can mitigate risk of a bad choice. Calling Stoneseed is like having an expert sat in the passenger seat changing the radio station, adjusting the rear-view mirror, and showing you how to turn on the heated seats allowing you to focus on the road ahead!

3 – The Four Rs – Rusty, Remote and Reduced Resources

In some cases, as businesses, we’re just out of practice making those big decisions. Furlough and WFH (work from home) changed the way our businesses operate, and it they also changed the structure and timeframe of getting a decision made.

Some businesses are still a little rusty like you were when you returned to the gym as it reopened after lockdown. Other teams are still working remotely which can cause delays to a decision process – who doesn’t miss the days of decision makers being “on tap” in the office next door? Lastly, many organisations have been forced to trim the staff headcount leaving fewer people to share more responsibility and make more decisions – often decisions in a new area they’re not familiar with – you can understand any reluctance to risk getting it wrong!

And then, there are some firms, like Josh’s organisation whose virtual meeting I attended, that have a perfect storm of all these – but even worse – and a culture that errs towards caution anyway. There is hope, even for them!

My hope is that you’ve read this and none of it has resonated. That you’re as decisive now as you ever were, if anything, maybe even sharper. If, though, any of this has rung a bell, Stoneseed is here to help. It’s amazing the difference a fresh pair of ‘been there, done that’ eyes can make

We can help sharpen your processes, bolster your resources and even guide you through methodology and approaches. I’d love to hear from you. 

  Find out about Stoneseed’s Project Services