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Managing Your Strategic Initiatives Through a Crisis

With the unprecedented response to the COVID-19 virus, companies are seeing a dramatic reduction in sales and bracing for a major cash flow disruption. Many have had to shut their doors altogether as a result of government mandates. Those of us still operating are scrambling to adapt our business model and figure out how to partially or completely move to a remote operation.

We hope your business is fortunate enough to be able to continue operations in this environment and we feel for you as you scramble to respond to all the related employee, customer and supplier and other stakeholder challenges. Because strategic initiatives are more critical than ever to your company’s health, we want to share some steps you can take to protect them through this crisis.

Most companies at any given time have any number of strategic initiatives taking place. These initiatives are routinely delayed or do not achieve the intended or expected benefits for a variety of reasons in a normal business environment. Unclear goals, inadequate communications, operational prioritization, poor project management discipline, project fatigue and changes in leadership focus and attention are common challenges that can delay or result in ultimate failure of strategic initiatives and projects.

With a workforce that is no longer co-located and largely working remotely, leadership and organization must become paramount: Not only to ensure that day-to-day responsibilities continue to be carried out and that the standard of execution is maintained, but also to ensure that strategic initiatives continue to receive the attention they require to avoid loss of focus and momentum or worse yet, fall back or die on the vine.

The following are steps your company can take to mitigate this risk and follow good project management discipline:

  • Assess Where You Are
    Inventory all strategic initiatives and log key aspects of each initiative, including project sponsor, project lead, summary status, key stakeholders, next steps, decisions required, issues/risks, desired or expected outcomes, ROI and ROI timing.
  • Reprioritize Your Initiatives
    Reprioritize your project portfolio for the current environment in terms of ROI and current capacity. Projects with ROI beyond 6 months (or potentially less) should be considered for shelving at this time.
  • Get Everyone on the Same Page
    Communicate to all project team members a summary of the project portfolio prioritization. Project sponsors and company leadership should reinforce the support for priority projects and projects put on hold should have specific dates for reassessment.
  • Utilize Project Management Techniques & Best Practices
    • Have regular project status meetings
    • Document and archive project status (project status reporting)
    • Review detailed project plans, evaluate progress and continuously assess and address issues and risks
    • Deliver a crisis communication plan and celebrate your successes
    • Utilize tools to drive priority projects. Leverage cloud-based, collaborative tools across the project team such as Office 365, SmartSheets and Asana to create automated notifications to team members.
  • Assess & Iterate
    Schedule routine project assessments to determine if and/or where you need to make changes to your plans, execution or goals in order to keep your priority initiatives moving forward.

We are fortunate that technology has evolved to enable us in these challenging times. If we can’t work side by side with our teammates, we can see each via online meeting platforms. During turbulent times, we should be meeting and communicating more frequently. Not only does this remind us that we are not alone, but it can ease our transition to this new, yet hopefully short-term “norm.”

Larx has deep experience in providing a variety of project management leadership and support services. Whether your company is implementing or upgrading an ERP, working to develop and bring to market a new product line or are integrating a merger or acquisition, Larx can help.

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