The New World

Meet the Future 50

When the pandemic began in 2020, so did a massive office exodus. According to The World Economic Forum, as of December 2020 — less than a year into the pandemic for most countries — 52% of employees around the world were working from home.

“Before the lockdowns, we had a couple dozen offices around the globe. Very quickly, we had to shift to about 10,000 home offices,” said Cassie Richardson, PMP, director of security product and program management, Electronic Arts (EA) and a PMI Future 50 recipient. “We had to figure out how to make EA just as secure as it was when everybody was working on-site.”

It’s a shift that has profoundly changed how organizations and individuals think about work. Even today, as some companies call their employees back to the office, others — including Twitter, Shopify and Tata Steel — are making work from home a permanent part of their policy. In fact, according to a survey from Steelcase, 87% of leaders around the world now say they expect to allow more flexibility about where, when and how people work.

For some project managers, this way of working is nothing new. Global projects have often forced project professionals to lead virtual teams. However, the pandemic-induced increase in work from home is making this scenario a reality for many project managers for the first time, and it’s causing them to rethink how they communicate and engage with their team.

“Communication is a bigger challenge now,” said Innocentia Mahlangu, PMP, a senior engineer and project manager at Hatch Africa and PMI Future 50 2021 recipient. “As a leader, you need to be more intentional about engaging people and inviting people to participate in meetings. The moment you communicate, it makes the process a lot easier.”

Chong Luen Lim, PMP, a project manager at Boston Scientific in Pulau Pinang, Malaysia, and a PMI Future 50 2021 recipient, agrees that communication has become a greater challenge since the pandemic began, but there have been benefits as well.

“It’s required me to communicate more, to avoid unintentional misunderstandings in a virtual environment,” he said. “But the positive side of that is more intentional collaboration. We have to trust each other more and to acknowledge that people are the ones who create an idea and see it through.”

For Angelina Howard, a senior project manager at Amazon in Seattle, Wash., the need for intentional communication has influenced how she ensures project team members and stakeholders stay up to date on progress.

“In the past, I could quickly follow up with stakeholders and check on project statuses by stopping by their desk, so I didn’t need to check in on tasks as much as I do today,” she said. “In a remote world, I provide more visibility on my projects via status update emails, reviews and internal wikis.”

For Bridget Mason, PMP, a project manager at management consulting firm Tiree in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, leading these post-pandemic teams of the future comes down to trust.

“Trust in your team ensures everyone is happy and doing their best work, which I believe is key in turning great ideas into reality,” she said. “Fostering relationships between peers is incredibly effective in getting over roadblocks or tackling ambiguity when unknowns arise.” 

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