Our continuing weekly blog series of insights and reflections, Lessons from Lockdown, created by Sarah Coleman, Vicki Griffiths, Ian Cribbes and Tim Lyons. Here Reyhaneh Kazemi, founder of Women in Project Management Iran and Project Management Advisor at the OIEC Group, Iran, shares some of WiPMI members’ personal and individual experiences and explores three particular opportunities that have emerged during this time of threat and disruption.
One of the major consequences of the lockdown has been more distance working for almost all of us. This seems to drastically highlight personal performance and output rather than other factors such as the ability to network, socialize or use the shadow organization (Bowles, 1991; Ekvall, 1996).
As a female engineer and project manager who has been working on large scale oil and gas projects for nearly 20 years, I would definitely say my work environment is dominated by men. All my bosses and nearly 80% of my colleagues are men. In the vibrant and active environment of project management, networking is essential. At my workplace, part of networking takes the form of casual conversations in the smoking area or while playing football, both of which tend to be more available for male colleagues.
Moreover, we have separate physical spaces for men and women in the workplace as well as in sport or social areas. Consequences of separate space mean that networking and socializing have become a basis for evaluation, professional development and promotion opportunities; even worse, it can affect the motivation, performance and output of female employees as well as their ability to progress in their careers.
Lockdown and remote working have unintentionally decreased the opportunities for informal networking and socializing with all their pros and cons. Now the rules of the game have changed it is time to show how competitive we female professionals are, how much we could add value to our organisations, and how ready and qualified we are to engage more in senior responsible roles.
Additionally, women in the industry can use this opportunity to lead their company’s recovery post COVID-19 and demonstrate their leadership skills, especially in the area of health and wellbeing of their teams and other staff. Protecting and caring for colleagues can be as simple as a call to ask ‘how are you keeping?’ and conveys the message ‘your health is important for us’.
Talking with friends and colleagues, we identified two trends about organizational agility for responses to COVID-19 and lockdown. The first was about more women in managerial and senior executive positions and the second trend was about startups as part of a company’s social responsibility; for example, crowd funding to source 50,000 of protective clothing by an oil and gas contractor, or employees donating part of their monthly salary to buy and deliver fresh fruit and juice to hospitals and health centres.
The second opportunity from lockdown is these unique circumstances to prove the efficiency and effectiveness of our risk response plans! Risk management is a crucial component of project management and COVID-19 has presented an opportunity to utilize our carefully drafted risk management procedures and identify their flaws. Lockdown has provided the opportunity for companies to re-evaluate their risk management procedures, implement wellbeing practices and review their business continuity and business resilience planning.
As I talked with some companies, those who were more prepared with well stablished contingency plans are suffering less from the impact of COVID-19, so we should take the opportunity to re-evaluate or in some cases develop organizational risk response plans in case of future disasters.
The third opportunity could be seen in lessons learned and knowledge management systems. Lockdown and distance working have decreased our ability to ask guidance directly from those who are experienced so checking the lessons learned database has become more vital. Organisations who have not yet implemented the necessary infrastructure and systems should hurry up to do so; those with already established systems now have the chance to encourage more of their less experienced staff to use it and, at the same time, encourage their more experienced staff to add in their own learning and understanding from projects and programmes. Well-established knowledge management systems could have captured learning around remote working so increase the chances of staff to transition and work with it successfully, so that the company would be more ready to adapt to the new situation.
The new normal is difficult for everyone to adjust to but we must believe that every cloud has a silver lining. We must use the opportunities provided to us by the COVID-19 crisis to emerge stronger than before.
Reyhaneh Kazemi PMP founded Women in Project Management Iran in 2018. She is Project Management Advisor at the OIEC Group, Iran.
Auron, M. The shadow side of organizational culture. www.culture-builder.com/founders/shadow-side-organizational-culture.html. Accessed 24 July 2020.
Bowles, M. (1991) The Organization Shadow. Research article www.journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/017084069101200303 . Accessed 24 July 2020.
Ekvall, G. (1996) “Organisational climate for creativity and innovation”. European Journal of work and Organisational Psychology. 5 (1). Pp.105-123, 1996