How are project managers adapting to a pandemic impacted economy?


The pandemic has changed everything. Entire industries have sprouted up, while others have collapsed. The pace of change – which was already very fast- has only accelerated. And those who aren’t in the driver’s seat are white-knuckled passengers praying that the people in charge can deliver them to some sort of safe harbor.  

Project management is no different. Historically PMPs have played a crucial role in innovation as internal resources guiding projects from inception to completion. They worked for organizations and they got things done. But that role – like so many others is changing. And according to Kimi Hirotsu Ziemski, the founder and CEO of KSP Partnership and Sr. Project Management Instructor at UC Berkeley Extension, project managers need to adapt to change faster than ever before. 

“Project managers got things done,”  Ziemski says over Zoom. “And by doing that, companies were able to achieve their strategic goals and everybody was happy and everybody was wonderful.”

But then came remote working and organizations realized they could find talent, beyond the confines of the four walls of a downtown office building. 

“We probably had the first instances of working with remote team members of any other kind of profession, “ she says. “But since the pandemic, a couple of things have happened. Number one, everybody was suddenly remote. So that put a little bit more stress and pressure on our communication skills and our leadership skills. But also our senior leadership teams were starting to think ‘If we can get coders here, or designers there, we could also get project managers in any of those places also.”

This sudden shift has left a lot of PMs unsure about what the future holds for them as employees. 

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“I think it’s accelerated our move to being gig economy workers,” Ziemski says, adding “and as a gig economy worker myself, I had to be my own project manager for everything I’ve done over the last 10 years.”

Ziemski’s firm is a leadership-drive consultancy and coaching firm with a laser sharp focus on project management. It is also the creator of the Conscious Leadership Online Summit.

 “We work with project managers to help them with things that they never really thought they were going to have to do, like interviewing over zoom and being able to project more of a strength from leadership.”

As organizations are increasingly seeing the value of not killing every single project, just because things have gotten crazy, the relationships they have with PMs are changing from that of employee/employer to client/consultant.

And a big part of this requires PMs to see themselves in a different way. “People are having to learn the real value of having a strong, professional, personal brand and understanding the difference between marketing and manipulating.”

“Because you are no longer necessarily going to be employed by the same organizations for long periods of time. Your career may last only seven big  projects. But those seven projects may happen over 10 years.  And there are four months, three months or six months between them when the only project you have is finding your next engagement.”

For a lot of PMs who are used to getting a steady paycheck every two weeks that is going to be a huge adjustment. 

“That’s not something that a lot of my colleagues, my students or my coaching clients are  really prepared for,” admits Ziemski. 

“You have to understand what your value proposition is. You have to understand what you’re putting forward as your true brand and benefit because they (employers) can turn around and find another person in a heartbeat.”

 The new economy is the project economy. PMs need to realize they are selling themselves as much as they are selling their services. 

Find out more about KSP Partnership here and register for the summit here. 

Watch my free online workshop on how Project Managers can adapt to the new business paradigm here.

Aidan Crawford

Aidan Crawford is president of Short Circuit Media. His main job is helping consultants, trainers and professional speakers get their marketing in order by creating and implementing strategies to help them reach their target audiences.

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