Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the increasingly complex interplay of systemic challenges around the world was touching all of us—in all aspects of our lives. One thing that’s being revealed to us now is the once in a lifetime chance to reimagine how we think about our work—to embrace next economy thinking. At the organizational level, a strong project skillset contributes to responsive culture and effective work, even amid today’s unpredictability.
In moments of crisis throughout history, including the crisis we’re living through now, a move to more project- and team-based work replaces the well-defined work by departments, job titles or job descriptions. Ad hoc cross-functional teams—swiftly mobilized—figure out what needs to get done and the best way to do it. People with the right skillsets, backgrounds, and experiences come together in a project setting to solve the challenges at hand, since it’s “operations [that] run the business; [and] projects [that] change the business.” But it’s not only in moments of crisis—it’s also a reality of our accelerating digital landscape that is calling for project-based work and agile teams.
Build flexibility and diversity
For organizations to emerge stronger, create more value, and address more quickly and more meaningfully the gaps in our fragile systems, they need to be more flexible. With project-based work, made up of dynamic, ad hoc teams, there’s more immediate opportunity to bring diversity of people with the right skills, and apply the most suitable methodology (e.g. agile) and approach (e.g. design thinking / iterative) to come up with the relevant, equitable, and inclusive solutions our time demands.
Project-based work is an approach that has been very familiar across consulting firms, and especially for the client engagements we lead at Junxion, where we assemble project teams with internal and external Junxion consultants and diversity in mind. Our strategic planning workshops, for example, include invited guests—’Creative Agitators,’  —who add diversity, disrupt status quo thinking, and broaden the organizational ‘worldview.’ And overall, we’re designing strategic plans for our clients with agile implementation in mind, which allows a three or five-year strategic plan, for example, to be executed through yearly, bi-annual or quarterly planning to prioritize and reprioritize the key initiatives according to emerging opportunities or challenges. During this current crisis, we’ve been supporting some clients by scaling down Junxion’s agile strategy process to plan for as little as three-to-four weeks out.
Break down silos
Since cross-functional teams are made up of individuals from across the organization, and each project may change the make-up and leadership of the team, project-work can also serve to break-down internal silos, where individuals are stuck in their departments or program areas, and rarely get the benefit of working across the organization to exchange knowledge and skills with their peers. This often alienates employees and it’s a lost opportunity to draw on the diverse views, skillsets, and knowledge that can enhance and accelerate impact. With that in mind, it’s important in project-based work to keep the project teams united by the common, long-term purpose of the organization—avoiding project teams becoming short-sighted by only focusing on their specific project objectives and deliverables.
As we navigate more extreme change and disruption, strong project skills will help us to implement strategic initiatives successfully. This is a critical capability. It could be the difference between continuing to struggle, running from one challenge to the next, or designing an organization that will emerge stronger from this crisis—and future crises. Start now by learning more about next economy thinking, embracing a project-based approach to build more flexibility and diversity into your organization’s work, and break down silos so knowledge and insights flow between departments, groups, and teams.
Chantal Schauch is a Senior Consultant with Junxion and a certified Project Management Professional (PMP). Reach her via [email protected].
For more insights, check out these related posts:
- Emerge Stronger With Values-Based Leadership
- What’s Your Three Week Strategic Plan?
- Let Your Systems Set You Free
 4 Cabrey, T. & Kondisettey, P. 2020, March. Future-Focused: Building a Change Ready Culture. Presented at PMXPO 2020, PMI.org.
 Rodrigues, A. N. 2020, March. The Project Economy and Why Projects Are the Future. Presented at PMXPO 2020, PMI.org.
 Credit where it’s due: we learned this practice from our client Future of Fish and their Principal, Cheryl Dahle.