8 goals every project manager should aspire to achieve

If the pandemic has taught project managers anything, it’s that uncertainty is here to stay. Here are the new goals project managers must focus on to be an indispensable strategic partner.

While a chief responsibility of a project manager is to deliver projects on time and on budget, that’s no longer enough — the pandemic of 2020 has left a lasting worldwide change. Global uncertainty has complicated life for project management offices (PMOs) worldwide. How has this impacted their goals? There’s a new reality following the pandemic, requiring project managers to focus on these goals to achieve success.

1. Reaction, resilience, recovery — and recognition of the new reality

Probably the most critical goal for project managers throughout the pandemic and beyond will be the ability to remain agile and adaptable. Since COVID hit, these goals have been a essential for project managers looking to stand out and become strategic partners and leaders. Specifically, reaction, resilience, recovery, and recognizing and adjusting to the new reality should be new goals, according to KPMG.

  • Reaction: Project managers must address imminent challenges and ensure clarity around project management and stakeholder roles and responsibilities.
  • Resilience: Project managers must work to restore disrupted initiatives and adopt a more sustainable delivery model.
  • Recovery: Project managers need to adapt projects and portfolios to align with emerging business models.
  • Recognize the new reality: Project managers must create more strategic options and a scenario to deliver long-term project growth.

2. Execute high-impact, high-visibility initiatives

Following COVID-19 in 2020, most project and portfolio priorities have changed. A shift towards remote work (78%), automation (76%), supply chain safety, adapting the customer experience (CX), and climate change are among the trends driving further long-term change, according to CEOs polled global in a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report. Overall, 61% of CEOs say their business model will be more digital in the future — a change accelerated by the pandemic.

If time is spent executing minor, non-value-add, or siloed projects that don’t address the new challenges brought about by the pandemic, company resources are not only being squandered, potentially more desirable opportunities may be as well. The role of a PMO should not be a passive one; every project professional should have a clear understanding of the direct line from project to strategic direction.

3. Adapt to remote workforce realities

With 78% of the workforce shifting to remote work, hiring, training, and team management has become more difficult as a whole. This can be more complex when seeking vested and strategic-minded project managers. Post-pandemic, it will be essential to hire and train strategic thinkers to increase automation, address supply chain gaps, and improve CX. This increases the likelihood of executing high-impact, high-visibility projects that align with the potentially shifting priorities of companies.

PMOs should hire, train, and mentor remote project managers as vested strategic partners. These project leaders will need to have the soft and requisite skills and abilities to direct efforts towards creating and maintaining buy-in during uncertainty. They will need to mentor, more rapidly address conflict, and drive changes to offer companies the best advantages. This creates a larger pool of top-notch leaders who understand the impact of changes on their projects and portfolios and how best to deliver value on limited business investments.

4. Align with changing strategic objectives

A PMO’s value can be recognizable only if stakeholders and executives can distinguish a direct line back to strategic goals. There has to be clear direction and ongoing, transparent communication that flows from project leaders to all areas of the company about how projects are progressing toward those goals. But what happens when those goals suddenly and unexpectedly change?

PMOs will need to engage the help of change managers to identify and navigate changes, develop new processes, and document and communicate changes to the right stakeholders in a timely way. This way, when issues arise and teams get sidetracked, project managers can effectively communicate what has changed and what needs to be done to address the impact. This ensures the efforts of the team are geared toward successfully meeting changing goals, it helps to pave the way for success.

5. Report what matters

Key performance indicators (KPIs) play an important role in helping project teams identify the required, agreed-on strategic objectives and measure progress. Whether quantitative or qualitative KPIs are used, a PMO should regularly report progress to project sponsors and stakeholders. Many company KPIs may have changed since the pandemic first hit. Companies may now have KPIs that center around automation and logistics, and while CX will still remain important, how success is measured may now be different. With so much else becoming ambiguous since COVID-19, providing increased visibility into project, program, and portfolio performance has and will continue to become more vital for stakeholder confidence.

6. Engage continuously to ease anxiety around uncertainty

It used to be that project leaders would sit down with project sponsors, executives, stakeholders, and teams at the start of any project and nail down the precise information each is looking for regarding KPIs and ongoing project insights. Since the pandemic, uncertainty has become the mainstay, pushing project managers to meet stakeholders more frequently and make changes to parameters as circumstances change.

If information is murky from the start, how can a project manager determine the types of data they need to sift through to gather useful, timely, and relevant business intelligence? Following the pandemic, some companies are still struggling to gather the business intelligence needed to make pivotal decisions — especially during a time of uncertainty.

It’s critical to ensure the right tools are in place to provide each area of business the relevant to-the-point dashboards that can offer at-a-glance takeaways as circumstances change. It should be a project manager's goal to seek and leverage tools that help them capture pertinent real-time data from multiple sources and display it visually so teams can quickly and easily access metrics in an instant. This helps teams and stakeholders quickly understand the changes that impact them, how they are performing, and where they are in relation to project goals.

7. Highlight and celebrate PMO achievements

Being able to highlight achievements allows project teams and stakeholders to not only celebrate a job well done but also learn important lessons or takeaways for future projects. Project managers should be able to explain how the gathered business intelligence ties into the achievements of the PMO. Information collection and analysis are worth the exercise only if there is a link back to the PMO activities in relation to stakeholder needs.

8. Evolve the PMO to support the business

In general, the PMO and all project professionals should remain in a perpetual state of improvement. It is necessary to continually review processes, internal resources, technologies, culture, and so on, to make sure stakeholder needs and strategic goals are being met.

Each department will have different challenges and goals that will roll up and impact the high-level strategic ones. It’s vital to recognize, as many companies have learned, what worked last year isn’t necessarily going to work next year. Project managers need to continually evolve to keep pace.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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