Coping with change and uncertainty

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Our attitude to change

Nobody likes change. Well, that’s at least what we have been led to believe. The truth is that we are experiencing change or uncertainty every single day of our lives, be that at work or on a personal level. Change is going to happen whether we like it or not; what we need to develop and master within ourselves is an attitude to embrace change. If we embrace it as an opportunity rather than see it as an obstacle, we will be able to successfully navigate past it to continue to deliver successfully.

Change provides us with the opportunity to stretch ourselves outside of our comfort zones. We reach a point where we develop new skills and techniques that put us in good stead the next time something changes in our lives. Only by stretching ourselves can we truly realise our full potential, not only as project professionals but also in our daily lives outside of work. One particularly useful tactic I use when dealing with change is to break the activity down into components – those in your control and those outside of your control. You can then focus on the key activities where you personally can make the biggest impact.  

Forced change

More often than not change is forced upon us. Think of the current situation everyone across the world is facing with COVID-19 and the restrictions that are being imposed upon us. Many within our profession have unfortunately lost their jobs. Projects, particularly those that are privately funded, have been squeezed and in some instances suspended. COVID-19 has affected us all in some capacity. In times of uncertainty we need to focus on the things that we can control and not become overwhelmed by those which are not in our control. As project Professionals, we have a duty to process change; to identify opportunities, and challenge the way projects have been undertaken in the past.

COVID-19 has shaken up the industry like nothing else in recent history. A few months ago, I was invited by a Local Government client to provide advice on what their top priorities for infrastructure development should be going forward. It is encouraging to see this challenge being posed particularly through Local Government clients. We must use this as a catalyst for change – putting sustainability, in its truest sense, at the forefront of projects. We must re-assess our portfolios of work to only implement and deliver what will be truly beneficial to future generations. COVID-19 has forced us to change, so let us use this to reshape our thinking around project delivery.

Being the cause of change

It might sound strange but as much as we are all wary of change, we can often be the cause of positive change. Thinking back to the last time you went on a diet, you wanted to change something about yourself, so you forced change upon you. It wasn’t easy but you knew the benefits it would bring about and so you embraced it. Now it’s a lot easier to embrace change when you want it, but you can adopt a similar mindset when change is forced upon you. Embrace it and try and figure out the positive outcome it will lead to.

The future

Change is an unknown quantity, however, having the right mindset will help us successfully navigate the often-choppy waters of change. Do not look at the scale of the problem and let that startle you as often this will lead to inaction and stagnation. Get together with your colleagues and think about how you can manage whatever change event you are experiencing and take small steps towards the resolution. Consistently taking steps towards your desired outcome will ensure that you are always moving forward towards your goal. Take your first step today and be the cause of positive change in your projects and in the lives of others.

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Abdul Wahab Ghumra

Posted by Abdul Wahab Ghumra on 27th Oct 2020

About the Author

Abdul Wahab Ghumra (CEng MICE, MAPM) is a principal project manager at Mott MacDonald specialising in the management of multi-disciplinary, complex projects and programmes. He is a Chartered Civil Engineer and Full Member of the APM, having completed the PMQ in 2016.
He is passionate about making project management a more visible and accessible career path for graduates and apprentices, especially within the engineering sector. 


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