Project Planning during Uncertain Times

By: Jonathan Ahmadi

“Unprecedented,” hands-down, the word most often used to describe the events of 2020. Despite all the uncertainty and changes, life went on, and healthcare providers, business owners, parents, and everyone, even project managers, found ways to adapt.

What is Project Planning?

For me, project planning is, at its most fundamental level, the organization of chaos into meaning. It is a way of cataloging, prioritizing, and assigning the multitude of tasks required to accomplish an objective into a meaningful and tangible result.

It does not matter if that objective is the successful activation of a hospital requiring hundreds of people working in concert or a simple morning routine like making breakfast. The same principles apply. Now, you may argue that the stakes are higher when activating a hospital, but that is because you have not yet tried my pancakes.

With 2020’s fair share of challenges, project planning needed a fortified and more robust foundation. The traditional planning method typically involves reviewing schedules and project information to create a plan of action. For the initial months of a project, the Yellow Brick team works with our clients to develop a plan that addresses the project’s unique aspects, identifies risks and barriers, and engages specific stakeholders to ensure the project’s success. Perhaps the most valuable part of this initial planning phase is the relationship that ensues between our team and the client when we solidify our trust and respect for each other.

How have we adapted?

We are, for the most part, creatures of habit. I used to get up every morning and go to the gym. The accomplishment of finishing my workout helped to clear my mind and start the day off on the right foot. With gyms closed, I have had to adapt and instead, now go for daily morning walks.

While there has always been a degree of unpredictability in our line of work due to the shift in construction timelines, the evolution of processes and the changes in priorities, Yellow Brick’s project planning has also changed to adapt to the challenges brought about by the pandemic. Our tools and methods remain, but we have learned to find ways to build trust and establish camaraderie while working remotely.

We have found that we now need additional time to get the project off the ground. Many of the initial meetings are focused on understanding how the organization functions and building the foundation of trust with the teams. We employ different strategies to gain confidence and establish a relationship with the teams. Some project managers incorporate ice breakers into their meetings. I prefer to joke about how cold it is in California with our clients in Alaska. Even as we become adept at Zoom, we still forget that we are on “mute” half of the time!

What’s NexT?

I remember hoping in June of 2020 that we would soon get the virus under control and that our lives would return to some semblance of normalcy, yet here we are a year and a half later and still combating the pandemic.

The reality is that the changes we have adopted during this time will likely stay as the “new normal.” While we don’t know for sure what the future will bring, and despite the fear that comes with uncertainty, I am optimistic that we will all find ways to adapt, and life will go on.