Coping with Change in the New Normal
Potshangbam July

Leaders need technical, business, and soft skills to manage projects and their remote teams effectively in the new normal. Project Management South Asia Conference 2021 will focus on the new capabilities that leaders must develop to succeed in this world.

As unpredictability continues, so does the definition of the ‘new normal.’

With limited ability to foresee tomorrow’s changing landscape and create lasting solutions, project leaders need to adopt an agile, adaptable, and flexible approach as against the conventional, tried-and-tested project management practices. They are today expected to wear multiple hats to navigate their projects effectively, even as complexity grows. Project managers must hence master next-level skills in technology, hybrid project management, leadership, business analysis, communication, and people management. People skills such as empathy, negotiation, and active listening will foster great working relationships in today’s remote working environment.

In this edition of Manage South Asia, leaders from the project management profession tell us about the critical issues they are facing in the new normal, and the path they are adopting.

How to Navigate the New Normal with Greater Effectiveness

The last 18 months have been the most disruptive times in the recent past, with all the elements of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA) impacting us in every aspect of our lives. Having lived through these tough times, it is important for us to recollect what we experienced and move ahead.

March 2020 will go down in history as one the most defining times of our lives. Our normal lives were upended as countries across the globe waged a war against COVID-19. During these months, we experienced many personal tragedies and setbacks, and made changes to our dayto- day lives.

So it was not a surprise that in March 2021, when PMI South Asia ran a poll on the topic for a global conference, over 60 percent of the total 800 entries voted for a discussion on the new normal.

Hence, we decided to focus on the theme, Project Management:
Embracing the New Normal, for our upcoming Project Management South Asia Conference 2021, to be held on 10-11 December. The idea behind this initiative is to help our community understand how to navigate the new normal with greater effectiveness. Our focus is to equip you with the best experiential learning opportunities, help you to get some answers, and provide you with coping strategies for negative situations in the future.

It has been our constant endeavor to bring industry best practices and knowledge to the project management community. We have invited global speakers to use the conference as a platform to share their valuable insights and experiences in handling disruptions.

Gone are the days where everyone was eager to progress their career by learning new skills. In today’s time, when everything is thrown out of the gear, many are keen to go back to the basics, and learn, relearn, and unlearn.

Muktesh Murthy is the president of PMI Bangalore India Chapter and practice head at Tech Mahindra. He is a seasoned IT professional with over 28 years of experience in program and project management, information security, delivery, and quality management.
The Way Forward: Embracing the New Reality

The pandemic has accentuated the VUCA prevalent in this world and brought about completely new dimensions to the global order, often referred to as the new normal. This brings into sharp focus the need for greater safety and health, and warrants organizations to reimagine their business practices.

Organizations will need to reorient their outlook toward flexibility and agility in responding to the new ecosystem. They need to build greater resilience and mitigate potential risks with a robust business continuity plan, with specific emphasis on supply chain disruption, geopolitical shift, and force majeure.

The pandemic has also brought many changes to the world of work in terms of safety, operational efficiencies, and cost optimization, by drawing on the advantages of both in-person interactions and virtual engagements. A combination of the full-time, part-time, virtual working and hybrid working models will typify the new normal.

Going forward, rapid advances in digital technologies will play a dominant role in shaping our future in the new normal. Products and services will be increasingly contactless and powered by digital platforms.

This will also call for innovative leadership that has the ability to navigate multiple disruptions and develop a digitally savvy workforce.

Project managers need to respond to this new reality, adopt a flexible and hybrid model that suits the context, embrace a distributed workforce and virtual collaborative platforms, integrate technology to deliver outcomes, and stay compliant with the relevant Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) norms. Also, considering the psychological impact the pandemic has inflicted on many, empathy and emotional connection will be key elements to bind a team and help an organization to move forward in the new reality.

Basu Dutta is an independent management consultant, who has been actively associated with a UK-based consulting firm since 2016 in leadership development and talent management. He has been volunteering with PMI since 2008, and has held the vice-chair’s position at the Computer Society of India, Bangalore India Chapter since 2021

Managing a ‘Faceless’ Employee – A Test in Leadership

Adaptability and agility have remained key to the survival and growth of organizations. The global pandemic has pushed organizations to adapt to newer ways of working, including remote working.

This ‘new normal’ has given rise to ‘faceless’ employees, which is posing new challenges in people management. Managers sometimes find themselves in situations where they need to manage the expectations of not only employees but also employees’ families. Employees, who had earlier used the office as an escape route from family pressures, are now finding it difficult to manage the dynamics of both the work and home fronts from the same physical space.

Managers need to keep this new dimension in mind and adopt a firm yet compassionate approach, something that they are not trained for. With health and safety concerns causing anxiety among team members, project managers need to show empathy while ensuring that the project does not suffer.

Before the pandemic, it was a common practice to prioritize time and effort to ensure that work responsibilities were carried out smoothly. But the practice of work from home has led to re-prioritization of time and effort, with office work encroaching on the rest time of employees. Managing the physical and mental fatigue of team members is a new responsibility of leaders at all levels – teams, projects, human resources, and business leaders. Empathy and counseling are the new skills that must be part of a project manager’s arsenal.

Lt Col L Shri Harsha (Retd.), PgMP, PMP, DASSM, is COO, Sankalp Infrastructure Pvt Ltd. He is a multi-faceted professional who juggles his time between practice, community service, knowledge sharing, and self-enrichment

Is My New Normal Different from Yours?

In the past decade, we discussed (VUCA) mostly at a conceptual level. But now we are experiencing it as our reality. The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed us to reconsider how we perceive our world, and the phrase that effectively conveys this reality in a positive manner is the new normal.

The words ‘new’ and ‘normal’ are unique for these times, underpinning the urgency to accept the new. The questions that arise are — What fits into this new paradigm? Is the new normal same or similar, or different for different organizations, sectors, and industries? Is everything out there, and clear? Is my new normal different from yours?

Some trends are identifiable but may not be defined yet.

Leadership is not only about surviving the crisis, but thriving while crafting new business models, fluidity of business enterprises across segments, and resilient and boundary-less supply chains. To create an effective new normal, leaders must ensure to keep business continuity strategies in place, such as an innovative risk management approach, hyper scaling of IT infrastructure, and a flexible organizational structure. The focus should also be on making locationagnostic work models and adopting intelligent agents that augment human capabilities. Additionally, organizations must prioritize environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices for sophisticated, sustainability-based management.

Some or all of these will impact not only the projects we choose, but also how we manage them. We need to rethink the role of the project manager in this new normal, and consider the new set of challenges that they will be facing.

The PMI South Asia Conference 2021 will be a great platform to bring yourself up to speed with these shifting concepts and the emerging reality.

Kartikeyan Ramamurthy, PMP, PfMP, is director of strategy at Amadeus Labs. He is the India ambassador for PMO Global Alliance, a member of the board of directors at PMI Bangalore India Chapter, and a DevOps leader.