This is the second in a series of articles looking at the effects of Covid-19 on project management in the development and humanitarian sectors. For the first article in the series, visit:

How will our experience of coronavirus affect our approach to managing the time element of projects in future?

Even as Covid-19 is still spreading, we are already reading warnings of a second wave of the virus, and similar viruses to come in the future. I expect people in general will begin to view time differently. Will our psyche change to the extent that we see “normality” as a time punctuated by crises? Perhaps not, but we will surely prize normality more, and seek to make the best and most efficient use of our time.

From an NGOs’ perspective, we may well see a desire to shorten the implementation time of projects – “Get in, get the job done, and get out” could be the new mantra. This would reduce the risk of projects getting stuck in implementation if another crisis were to happen. How will this change the way we manage development projects?

Project identification and design. I think the danger here is that, in order to shorten implementation times, projects will become less participatory and more top-down in their Imagineering. Good participation in the project identification phase takes time, ideally allowing opportunity for everyone involved to reflect, deliberate and reconvene when necessary.

Will such a process now be seen as too much of a luxury in the post-Covid-19 era? If so, it would be a great shame. One of the biggest challenges post-Covid-19 for development project managers might then relate to achieving good participation in reduced timescales. Otherwise, we may regress towards cursory participation in project design.

And so, to Project Planning. The Project DPro Guide provides information on the activities of Sequence activities and Estimate activity duration. Moreover, key elements to effective project scheduling, the Critical path and Project float slack, are also discussed by Project DPro. In my experience, development projects tend to focus more on the people aspect of projects, with time management seen as less important. Will this change in the post-Covid era?

If time management does become a more critical activity, we may see the resource optimization techniques of levelling and smoothing rise to a greater prominence in the development sector.

Finally, Project Implementation. Schedule control is complementary to schedule planning and includes making rectifications to the project to correct deviations from the schedule plan. The Project DPro Guide covers the schedule compression techniques of crashing and fast tracking. Like resource optimization techniques, will schedule compression be more widely used in development due to a desire to get the job done quickly?

Take a few minutes to think about whether your own attitude to time has changed. How will your project time management be different when life returns to normal after coronavirus?  

Pages 103-115 of the Project DPro Guide address project schedule planning activities, and pages 134-136 discuss managing the project schedule, including the activities of crashing and fast tracking.

Oliver Carrick

Oliver Carrick

Oliver is a part-time consultant who contributes to PM4NGOs as the PMD Pro+ Program Manager. He is a British academic, Project Manager, author and consultant living in Ecuador. He currently resides in the Galapagos islands where he is a Professor and department head, and also manages a program of community outreach projects. Oliver holds a Bachelor’s degree in Management, an MSc in Project Management, and a PhD in International development. He is also PMD Pro Level 2 and Program DPro certified. Oliver is a PMP and a PRINCE2 Practitioner.

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