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PMOs and resilience in a post-COVID world

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The reopening of the world has brought with it various considerations for individuals, and despite vaccinations and scientists putting their best foot forward, we may always be mindful of the risk of infection, wary of shaking hands, close contact and enclosed spaces.

As with other word-altering events, there will always be a ‘before COVID’ and ‘after COVID’. Everyone will remember where they were when they were finally aware of the danger, and how it impacted them and their loved ones.

Some will go back to their old lives, being able seemingly to block out the pandemic and act as though it never happened. Others will feel this to be an impossible task and ask themselves how others can seem so resilient, and maybe even feel inadequate or less adept at life in general.

Both of these responses to recovering from the past few years are correct. Our individual attitude and approach to life can either promote or diminish our ability to find resilience when dealing with difficult circumstances. Sometimes this approach is a subconscious trait that people are not even aware of.

Team resilience

During my coaching sessions I spend a lot of time exploring the human condition, and in particular how resilient people are and how they can find more resilience. And although as humans we have lots of elasticity (the ability to bounce back), there are external factors that influence us and help us to evolve – because we are not islands.

This is where team resilience comes into play. How our teams and tribes reacted to the pandemic will hugely influence how we ourselves experienced the pandemic; and they will also impact how we return to our lives.

We must understand that although everybody received lots of instruction on how to isolate for two years, there is no real advice on how to get back to our lives, work and people. PMO (and other leadership) teams must be mindful that there is no government-mandated approach to bringing people back to the physical office.

And maybe there should be, to provide a push in the right direction – or maybe people and organisations should be allowed to work together to find the right way to mitigate ‘reopening anxiety’.

Top-down or bottom-up?

When considering approaches to change management, we discuss the top-down or bottom-up way of bringing change.

Sometimes government mandates (the top-down approach) help us to feel like someone is watching out for us, that we are in good hands and someone has things under control. This worked very well during the pandemic; for the most part, people followed the rules that were given to them to keep themselves and their families safe.

But on reopening, there have been no top-down mandates, no real guidance and no rules. Reopening anxiety is a very real thing for some people, so what can we do to help them back?

The Wellingtone PMO Principles show us that PMO teams are integrators, a single source of truth, who enable capability and organisational learning. To live each of these principles, PMO teams must work well together. Anything else will simply end in failure.

As integrators, PMO teams must be seen to collectively bring knowledge, process, people and experience together. Without a good working relationship, the PMO cannot be credible as a centre of competence.

Find out what makes a successful PMO here

Leading from afar

The rise of virtual working has made the PMO role easier and harder in equal measure. Even many senior leaders were not prepared or skilled at leading from afar. PMO teams have been thrust into a world of remote process development, monitoring and coaching, so for a team, demonstrating resilience and an ability to adapt is more important now than ever.

Without this critical relationship, and demonstration of resilience, it will be very difficult for the PMO to support its delivery teams (and others) to find their resilience and head back towards some normality.

Team resilience is made up of:

  • collaboration (inside and outside the team);
  • being pragmatic about the minimum viable product;
  • defining the journey;
  • considering how accessible the team is;
  • getting together – either remotely or face-to-face; and
  • building and sustaining a culture of trust.

In summary

Resilience can be learned, even when it feels impossible. So, take some time to reflect on your own level of resilience. Have you found it already or are you still looking for it?

And if you have in fact found it in this uncertain world, maybe help someone else to find theirs.

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  1. Thomas Harrison
    Thomas Harrison 13 July 2022, 08:38 PM

    Humans are by our very mature hesitant to change yet resilient to change when we dont notice it. We have the canning ability to adapt to changes in circumstances that are incremental in nature. The difficulty is that we are resilient to change when there has been a disruption and there is no clear path to the end. That is why good leadership will manage the change as a transition be a leader to "be the change" and others will follow suit. Many thanks for the blog. Good read