Covid 19 – A Project?Gavin Halling
I sometimes ask project/risk related people to tell me their current greatest challenge. It generates some interesting ideas. One recently was regarding how to deal with unknown unknowns such as Covid 19.
For most organisations, other than those in public health (hopefully), Covid was not a risk. It was not on anyone’s radar. It was a black swan. We were just presented with a new external environment. So Covid was not per-se a risk it was a fact of life. Risks arise subsequently when an organisation considers what it will do about the new environment. How will it identify and undertake the activities needed to ensure the working environment is safe? One approach is to treat Covid 19 as a change management project. The objective may be something like:
‘To develop and implement working procedures to ensure our employees and customers are able to work and interact safely in a Covid environment by the 30th August 2020.”
That objective can immediately precipitate a breakdown of activities (eg back of house and front of house). The risks that have to be managed relate to the activities being undertaken and how, if they occurred, they would impact the objective.
The key here is that if an organisation has good project (including risk) management processes then these can be used immediately to effectively address the new environment. Conversely if processes are not in place then an organisation will struggle with how to address the new environment and there were quite a few organisations in that space.
So, a key lesson from Covid 19 is to ensure that good and well understood project management systems are in place. These will not only serve an organisation well in undertaking planned projects but also enable any future black swans (when they inevitably arise) to be managed quickly, efficiently and effectively.