I’m struck by the degree in recent times that our world is filled with uncertainty. Oh there has always been uncertainty. I know that. Control is an illusion but lately so many things that people have counted on have become uncertain.
In the geo-political sphere in the last few months we’ve seen big changes in the way the US Administration works. No matter which side of the American political divide you’re on, I doubt I can find a single person who can say things are more certain and less risky than they can remember. We’ve seen proposed changes in policies, actual changes in the way policies are applied and many changes that are expected or are already happening that are very different from how they have been in a generation or more. Even for those who say “Don’t worry. Everything will be mostly the same,” there is uncertainty. What will change? What will not? How might it affect my business; my family? We’re not sure.
If you’re thinking that my thoughts are tuned only to America, think again. In Canada, where my own HMS Software is based, there has also been a change in the Administration. The government has moved from right of center to left of center. The change is perhaps less dramatic but it is change nonetheless. And what does it portent? How will it affect the drivers of the Canadian economy? How will it affect my business, my project, my family?
In the United Kingdom, home of the stiff upper lip, things are also uncertain. Brexit? What does it mean? No one on earth currently knows. We know negotiations are underway but what will it mean for different types of businesses and even families? Will Britons in the EU have to move? Will EU families in Britain have to move? Can they stay? These are visceral decisions for millions as well as their children, spouses and other family members.
The EU is also in turmoil. What will the UK departing the EU mean in the end? Will the EU have to change? No one is certain. What about debt and currency issues that have been ongoing for years?
As a project manager and an entrepreneur, I’m familiar with uncertainty and risk. Indeed, it is the water I swim in every day.
Think about it. A project manager arrives to the first day on the project to find… Nothing.
There is no plan, no completed product, not even a team. On the first day of a project, it is almost pure risk. Yet the project manager must hold steady. They must guide the ship through those risky early times to a place where the project has a chance to succeed.
There will be risks realized in almost every project and certainly every project of significance but great project managers can often have those risks not even be noticed on the outside.
We tend to look back on a project at its completion and say, “Oh, sure. That was the plan all along!” The project manager will then often give a knowing smile and turn away. They know that’s not true but that is the mark of a project’s success. That at the end, all the moments of risk that the project manager faced seem to be historically transformed into mere challenges of the moment.
So what can you count on? How do you move forward?
People often ask me how one can function in this kind of economy and this kind of business environment. I tend to answer in the same way I would for any project I manage. I tend to take stock and focus on those things I can control rather than those I can’t. In our own business at HMS, we’ve been very fortunate over the last 30 years to build up a large and satisfied clientele so that is a focus we can always empower. We know that technology is evolving and fluid but we focus on the development we can get done rather than the work we can’t get to or that’s just impossible at the moment.
I’ve been delighted to see new businesses start up and start to thrive in industries I’d have never expected. I see new technology in social media and robotics that I could never have imagined ten years ago and different businesses have been able to adapt to take advantage of these new technologies in ways I’d have never expected. It’s growth in an aspect of my own industry that fascinates me. The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well and, perhaps it is even encouraged by turmoil and risk.
HMS has been around a long time and that stability of having been around for 30+ years gives us some perspective. We know we can count on our people. We know that quality products ultimately prevail. We know that we can be counted on.
For some, thriving in uncertain times is a constant.
I’m certain to find that spirit in both entrepreneurs and project managers.