Program Management in COVID-19 like Crisis Situations | HCL Blogs

Program Management in situations like COVID-19

Program Management in situations like COVID-19
October 07, 2020

Co-authored by: Deepak Kikan

In difficult times, such as the ongoing COVID-19 or other similar pandemic situations, what is expected from program management and how the team, along with the program manager, should respond to such situations, is the main objective of this blog post.

Situations like these force people to think about their health, life and if there is any hope left for an unclear future. Program management can be the panacea to these temporary ills. Here are a few tips on how program management should be carried out during COVID-19 and other similar crises.

Introduction

Program management is not just about getting a program delivered within the predefined criteria such as timelines or budget while managing risks and delivering value to the customer; it is also about standing together with the team in crises and helping them deal with the same. Few important points to remember are:

  • “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”
  • The world might come to a standstill temporarily, but things still move on. It is like the underlying river currents that are very strong, but on the top, the river looks calm.
  • Critical transformation programs and IT service delivery continue to work. Emergency services, biotech, life sciences, banking, utilities, and other similar IT customers need us to provide our services to their customers.
  • Teams work distributed across the globe, remotely, from home, and in an entirely flexible and agile manner, not discussed in standard Agile deliveries (which recommend collocated teams).

Prioritization

The modern world is being driven by the speed of business change, the advancement of digital technologies, and other customer-centric transformation programs. Business plans are dynamic and program success metrics are being upgraded, from the traditional metrics of cost, quality, and time management to business outcome-driven metrics. However, in the time of crisis, what becomes more important than these metrics are the value of human life, empathy, and understanding of others’ situations. The following factors should drive management:

  • Human life and health are the top priority.
  • Understand that the teams might be stressed, physically and emotionally.
  • The work environment is highly unorganized and haphazard, and there are distractions all around the team members.

Program Management Responsibilities

In this COVID-19 pandemic or other similar situations, program management needs to rise to the situation and handle an even bigger number of responsibilities. These responsibilities are beyond the normal day-to-day life and routine work, and requires passion toward work as well as the team. Below are few of the major program management responsibilities that a program manager should look toward which require more of a human touch than just being a program manager:

One of the most popular cycles, Plan-Do-Check-Act, is a good tool that a program manager can use and see what actions need to be taken at the appropriate time:

Plan

  • Plan for Business Continuity and crisis for practical usage and not just for compliance
  • Always plan and brainstorm for alternative solutions or digital technologies
  • Plan cross-skilling during lean periods, if any
  • Plan and share the next-in-line command with the team
Do
  • Clearly define responsibilities, task priorities, and deadlines
  • Listen to others’ points of view; they might have a solution
  • Recognize the efforts put in by the team despite the global crisis
  • Share and discuss problems with the team; we are not in the lone superhero business
Check
  • Do a status check on the work progress, risks, and issues
  • Work might take second priority but should never be moved entirely out of focus
  • Daily stand-up calls are important
Act
  • Keep in touch with the team members
  • Keep motivating your team and other peers
  • Keep your stakeholders and customers well informed and updated

 

The expectation of program management in pandemic situation

Team Responsibilities

The program manager alone cannot sail through this crisis tsunami without support from the team. The team also needs to rise above their project-related tasks and understand that they can win only if they work in close collaboration and support other teammates. This is an important change to give more time, support, and understanding, and rise above the self toward a team-winning culture. They need to consider the following:

  • High-performance teams that deliver in the toughest times.
  • Support each other.
  • Adhere to the deadlines.
  • Save your work regularly; use cloud backup wherever possible.
  • Highlight any possible risks/delays/issues upfront rather than close to the deadline.
  • Maintain some level of discipline despite irregular work times and a casual environment.
  • Dedicate a corner as the “home office” with adequate light, air, and sitting comfort.
  • Take regular breaks and get up from your seat, take a walk, drink water etc.
  • Exercise regularly based on your health condition and physical strength.
  • Treat your family as the support, not the hindrance, to your work.

Don’t forget

The program manager and the team should keep the following information handy:

  • Emergency contact details
  • Emergency response team

To summarize

Pandemic situations such as COVID-19 are not a routine phenomenon and happens once in a long while. However, when such crisis happens the customer programs might get impacted due to change in working conditions causing anxiety, depression and fear about the future.  To avoid any such impact to the customers, HCL equips the program manager and the teams with the appropriate set of processes, tools and tips to carry out their responsibilities towards to customer programs and  to steer it out of such situations and jointly take actions to keep the team moral up and high.