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5 Reasons to Use Project Portfolio Management in a Crisis

Melissa Panagides-Busch, MPH, PMP, BDO
Melissa Panagides-Busch, MPH, PMP, BDO

Melissa Panagides-Busch, MPH, PMP, BDO

As organizations navigate the ‘new normal’ during a global pandemic, the value of portfolio project management (PPM) becomes more apparent. During a crisis, uncertainty makes it difficult to determine how to proceed. Fortunately, PPM is already designed for unique situations, and it provides the toolset for defining goals, assessing situations and clearly communicating responsibilities. 

Following robust PPM processes can reduce the risk of poor decision-making in a crisis, because the considerations for what is required to achieve project goals are already in place. Here are five fundamental reasons to use PPM during a crisis:

1. Well-executed PPM facilitates effective decision-making and communication.

Project management tools are designed to consider all possibilities, test assumptions and drive toward decision-making. Foundational PPM allows you and your team to determine scope, consider the risks, develop schedules, consider dependencies and estimate resources, all of which facilitate and empower more effective decision-making and communication.

2. PPM provides the infrastructure for crisis management.

Once PPM is in place, then you already have the visibility to assess how to respond when a crisis occurs. You can use the tools you have to consider a range of critical questions, such as: What happens if we push out the timeline? If we need to shift resources away from this effort, how much longer will it take to complete? And in light of new circumstances, is it still necessary to complete this project?

3. Project management maturity means that your team has the skills, knowledge and ability to react quickly, as well as the discipline to move forward effectively.

A team of skilled project managers can be an excellent resource during uncertain times; they are trained to consider varying possibilities, manage through influence and communicate effectively. As a portfolio manager, you can rely on your project managers to provide you the information needed to make sound decisions.

4. StrongPPM focuses people on the work at hand and can help to mitigate feelings of anxiety and fear.

As with all crisis situations, the COVID-19 pandemic brings with it fear and uncertainty. We worry about our health and our loved ones, and the potential loss of income. When work has to be accomplished in a crisis environment, having a plan in place, discussing tangible objectives and managing around schedules or checklists can foster a sense of control, which helps to manage anxieties and emotions.

5. Good PPM invites flexibility.

Good project management is all about executing tasks and understanding that there must be ‘flexibility within boundaries’–if you are too rigid, you risk resistance and obsolesce; if there is no structure in place, you risk disorganization and lack of direction. PPM tools, methods and processes provide the structure for flexibility and necessary adjustments to meet the unique needs of the situation.

At its core, the discipline of project management is designed to facilitate the effective execution of tasks toward a desired outcome. Successful project management also requires the interpersonal skills to manage people effectively, which is especially important during a crisis. By having established processes and tools in place, PPM leaders can better support others with empathy, patience and understanding as they navigate difficult challenges together.

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