The daily ‘stand-up’, or the daily ‘hold up’- Driving successful projects in a virtual and hybrid working world

The daily ‘stand-up’, or the daily ‘hold up’- Driving successful projects in a virtual and hybrid working world

First came the mandatory face-to-face workshop and project meetings, complete with bulging paper pack handouts! Then, as big companies began to fret about their carbon footprint, we moved to all-day conference calls sat at our office desks.

Nowadays, thanks to COVID, we are delivering some of the biggest financial change projects and programmes remotely from anywhere in the world, often from the comfort of our very own homes!

The pandemic has heralded a genuinely new mindset shift for flexible and home working that has been welcomed by many. However, it has also presented organisations with the challenge of how to virtually mobilise, structure and engage project teams to orchestrate the intricate and complex technical, strategic, and cultural change to achieve any transformational outcome.

Whether your organisation champions Zoom or Microsoft Teams, like the pandemic, the usage and growth of these collaboration platforms has been exponential.  In December 201910 million users per day were logging in to Zoom, by April 2020, this number was a staggering 300 million! Similarly, Microsoft’s ‘Teams’ product reached 115 million daily users in October 2020. The ability to present on screen, chat, collaborate and co-author from your virtual location, anywhere, at any time, is an incredibly powerful project management tool.

In my experience, virtually facilitating your projects with the right balance of online meetings and remote working approach from the outset is key to success. But there is no one perfect approach and many different styles have emerged.

Below, I explore some of the ways that remote project management approaches can be deployed, and some of the characters that have evolved from the world’s new way of working. Can you recognise any of these approaches within your organisation, or even some of the emerging remote characters in yourself?

The virtual approaches to project management…

The Once and Done Sprint The backward-looking and forward-looking scrum

Short, sweet, to the point. Scrum Masters, project managers and senior stakeholders love a clear focussed update, a peek into a success, a heads-up of an emerging issue and more importantly what’s happening about it. Sprint backlog reviews are becoming more and more popular for this type of approach. The visual presentation of tickets and backlog items can be a very powerful virtual tool to keep your team united, on track and on mission.

Morning, Noon and Night See you at 9am, 12pm and 5pm

When a programme or project hits the pinnacle of its activity, there is a tendency to diary crash, and this can be multiple times during the same day. Driven by a natural instinct to reassure, re-play and re-focus, there is however a danger, that so much time is spent joining and leaving these sessions, that barely a few hours remain to perform key tasks. Of course, when it comes to live implementation periods this approach may be needed but consider the principles from the ‘Once and Done Sprint approach’ to try and balance your diary crashing safety blanket tendencies.

The ‘Back-to-Back’ Dry mouth, square eyes, and lack of blood circulation!

We’ve all been there, starting the day looking at a back-to-back diary. Zero time free for even a coffee, glued to our screens and swivel chairs. STOP! Project management doesn’t have to mean hard work all the time, and a back-to-back diary or continuous blocked full schedule outlined by the project can be unrealistic. Try reducing meeting times to allow breaks pre and post, but also consider centrally co-ordinating your meeting schedule to ensure a holistic PMO approach to your virtual governance. A new technique I would champion is the introduction of ‘Empower hours’, daily or weekly blocked time out of your project teams diaries (no meetings) for to time to re-charge, a wellbeing moment and to take a break!

The emerging characters from the virtual project meeting world…

The Jackie Weaver You are the chair, organiser, and controller, you have the authority!

Project management thrives with a figurehead to set the right tone, pace, and objectives of any meeting.  A good stand-up chair often demonstrates that tenacity to read the virtual room, encourage contribution, pull on the eager faces of the team sat in their kitchen or dining room, and recognise expertise to orchestrate an excellent meeting outcome (and hopefully not remove you from the meeting!).

The Mute on/Mute off! You have lots to say and contribute but can’t get a word in

Virtual project meetings nowadays can host hundreds of participants! Even in those meetings or stand ups with 5-10 attendees it can be very difficult to raise a concern, a question, not interrupt or feel like the moment has passed. It’s important to not let your point fade away, your contribution is valuable. Instilling an open, collaborative, and welcoming project and programme delivery approach is the way to achieve success, not only for the business outcomes, but for the team culture and individuals involved. Set this culture at the beginning, introduce the “hand raising” etiquette, or consider an “open floor” section on your agenda to ensure your change culture recognises everyone.

The chat bot No words, just chat, clapping hands and love heart emojis!

A new dynamic has landed courtesy of the chat facility running alongside virtual project meetings these days. A powerful tool for users facing technical difficulties or the sharing of links or documents to collaborate within the meeting. Watch out though for your attendees over utilising the chat facility as side-line conversations, decisions, agreements, even actions can be taking place whilst the main body of the call is underway!

The Lurker!

Are some of your stakeholders and clients’ cameras always off, rarely contribute, but then out of nowhere jump in with an insightful observation? Good project management in any meeting is to know your audience and prepare yourself ahead of the session. This ensures your important Lurker observations or queries are anticipated and managed appropriately to their absolute value and potential!

In summary: the key to not getting virtually held up!

Start your project on the right foot by developing, mapping, and agreeing your virtual project management ways of working approach early to align to your business culture and your deliverables’ need. Consider your tech choices well to allow you to host & collaborate on screen.

Most importantly, be bold & strike the right balance of inclusive virtual techniques to recognise your global sporadic teams. You are bound to increase your chances of achieving that successful project driving force with a lasting legacy to follow it.

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