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Welcome to the APM People SIG newsletter April 2020

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Welcome to the APM People SIG newsletter April 2020


  1. Introduction: Manage continuity as well as change
  2. Guest article: health & wellbeing matters
  3. Communication in challenging times
  4. Are you a Manager or Leader?
  5. Maintaining stakeholder engagement – a case study
  6. Future skills matter now
  7. And finally…

1. Introduction: Letter from the chair

“We’re clearing the decks.” A newspaper headline on Friday 20 March anticipated the unprecedented changes we’ve all witnessed over the past weeks to meet the COVID-19 challenge. The laser like focus to deliver transformation at incredible speed meant non-critical activities and services got cancelled or postponed until further notice. For those people waiting for “further notice”, the information vacuum has been challenging to say the least.

While we had to drop everything to address the evolving crisis, those non-urgent issues didn’t necessarily go away. It is likely that we will be living with the uncertainty and restrictions for some time to come. Keeping going requires a foundation of continuity, even in the midst of change, and we need to bring those non-urgent activities back into focus.

The articles below from our newsletter contributors suggest how.

  1. Picking up where we left off
    How do you keep stakeholders “on hold” while keeping them engaged and ready to return? Communication is important but how can we ensure the right message gets to the right people? In a recent APM People SIG webinar, experts Ann Pilkington and Tim Lyons showed how.

  2. Identifying what’s really important
    How many of us do things because “that’s how we’ve always done it”? David Richardson challenges us to think about our own behaviours, and whether we are managing milestones or leading to deliver value.

  3. Prioritising ourselves
    Taking time to reflect on how well we are coping may not have seemed critical over the past few weeks. It is now time to make health and wellbeing a priority again, says Sarah Coleman in a guest article below.

  4. Future skills matter now
    Learning & development provision has been transformed over the past few weeks, and there are links below for online resources and new learning materials from APM.

Let me close by extending my best wishes to you in this difficult time. I hope that you and your families are safe and well.

I will leave you with a quote from management expert and author Henry Mintzberg: “Take notice of all the things that are not changing, because they are no less important. Managing change without managing continuity is anarchy.”

Fran Bodley-Scott
APM People SIG Chair

2. Health & wellbeing matters, by Sarah Coleman

While the current lockdown rules in the UK will be lifted at some point, we realise that things will be different on ‘the other side’. As Project leaders, how can we find a new comfort zone so we can operate and support our teams effectively when we don’t have all the answers? Organisations need to weigh up the benefits of different approaches outside the current situation and develop their people strategies accordingly, says Sarah Coleman.

Article: Now is the time to prioritise mental health & wellbeing,
Sarah Coleman

3. Communication in challenging times

Communication is number 1 in the ’10 Key Principles of Stakeholder Engagement’. But enforced separation and virtual working has made effective communication a challenge even for seasoned specialists. In a APM People SIG webinar on Tuesday 14 April, communications expert Ann Pilkington explained that the most important thing we can do in challenging times is to create a plan. She took us through a straightforward, easy to implement planning process that draws on theory and models. And programme manager and coach Tim Lyons provided a deeper dive into the tips and tricks we can use to ensure our message really does get through.

Webinar resources 
Write up   Slides   Video recording

4. Are you a Manager or Leader? 

We talk about ‘leadership’ and ‘project management’ but do we really know what the terms mean? And does our own behaviour match what our stakeholders need from us? The challenges of the past few weeks have certainly tested everyone’s understanding of ‘leadership’. In this article, David Richardson challenges you to take a moment to reflect on your own behaviour.
Note - This article was written before the COVID-19 crisis emerged.

Article: Are you a Manager or Leader? 
David Richardson

5. Case study: Maintaining stakeholder engagement 

For many projects, lockdown has meant stopping work almost instantly. When a project is tantalisingly close to completion after years of painstaking work, it is not only frustrating but also puts critical stakeholder relationships at risk. In these circumstances, stakeholder engagement becomes even more important. Ian Cribbes shares three key learnings after having to shut down a church renovation project.

Article: Stakeholder engagement in changing times,
Ian Cribbes

6. Future skills matter now

Resources available for your own learning and development
Webinars: Maintaining productivity in the midst of seeming chaos has been a recurring theme in recent blog posts, videos and webinars. The APM SIGs and branches kicked off a new series of Free lunchtime webinars hosted on APM’s online portal. Covering a wide range of topics to support the project profession, the series has featured several excellent presentations that I can highly recommend: search through the APM playlist on YouTube to listen again.

Books: On the subject of Leadership, this blog post from has some ideas for deep diving into the topic: “11 Books That Will Change The Way You Think About Leadership

Courses: APM is collaborating with the Open University to offer a free on-line course “Project Management: Beyond the Basics”, providing a great opportunity for people to upskill or explore new career opportunities. For more details go to the OU Future Learn portal.

7. And finally ...

On the subject of communication: If you needed a nudge to reflect on how effective your own email skills are, I commend this short clip to you all: “Email in real life”.

(Apologies for the commercial at the end – other providers are available).



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