Many of us have spent all our energy and attention in the last 3-4 weeks organizing our businesses and organizations to work remotely.  Contingency plans that were made long ago have had to be executed.  Business Continuity plans you hadn’t completed have had to be finalized and put into action in a hurry.  It’s been a lot of adapting on the fly and by all the clients and business contacts we have spoken to, it has been a remarkable and mostly successful effort.

With all this going on, project managers have risen to the fore as they have been called upon to deliver these critical projects with the can-do attitude they are known for.  But if you were just sitting back in your chair thinking about how awesomely you’ve handled that, hold on.

We’re not done.

Project managers are usually the forward looking workers who look into the future and envisage what a completed project will look like.  Then, holding that vision up before others like a beacon of inspiration, we draw upon others to help realize our project.  Sounds great, yes?  Well, have you thought about how we’re going to get back to work?

This coronavirus will ultimately last only so long.  Exactly how long it will take before organizations are asked to regroup and get back to work is going to be different country by country, state by state, city by city and even company by company.

But it’s coming.

You may have had like we did at HMS, a business continuity plan for being able to quickly shift to working from home or from a remote location so the business can keep functioning.  That has worked wonderfully for us in the last 3 weeks.  But what about getting back to work once the restrictions on gathering come to an end?  You may want to start thinking now about the various aspects of getting the band back together that will need to go into your “Restart Project Plan”.

It won’t be an instant restart

No matter where you are, the dream that things will restart as quickly as they were shut down is a fantasy.  That will happen almost nowhere.  There are many moving parts that have to function in order to get every part of the economy and logistics working.  So, schools going back will be a gradual process.  That will mean people being able to work from other than home will have to be a gradual process.  Transportation both local and regionally will be a factor, if international travel is a part of your business, expect that to ramp up gradually also.  You may want to make contingencies for people being phased back in slowly.  That might result in the organization working in a remote/onsite hybrid for some time.  How can your systems adapt to that kind of world?

Government standards aren’t even defined yet

We may find as restrictions lower that there may be government standards to test employees before they can return or to get medical sign off on people before they can gather.  We don’t even know what those restrictions or processes might be but putting in a line item to check and adapt to them wouldn’t be amiss.

Physical spaces may need to be checked or certified

A couple of years ago after Hurricane Irma, we returned from having evacuated and a few hours after our return there was a massive school fire that we could see from our window.  The cause?  As power was restored to a particular area, the school wasn’t in a condition to receive it and electrical shorts and other issues sparked the fire.  Will your physical business space, having been empty for some period of time, require checking and maintenance?  This may be particularly important in industrial spaces, but even commercial spaces may need supervision and oversight.

Does the band even want to get back together?

You may have had numerous people on furlough.  How will Human Resources even determine that these people want their old jobs back?  Not only that, what will be the priority of who returns first vs. last?  Who will be needed to get things restarted, who will be needed to get the lights turned on?  There may be a lot of thinking required to get everyone back to their posts and the pace at which they are rehire-able will depend on how the business of the organization is expected to return to sustainable revenues.

What has happened to our market and our industry

There may be many changes in your industry or even your market which are not going to change quickly or even ever.  It’s fair to say for example, that the tourism industry is expecting a protracted period of lower international leisure travel.  Virtually everyone in that industry recognizes that people will be hungry to travel again but that for some time, travelling closer to home will seem safer and more attractive.  What about projections for your industry and your market.  How will your organization get back to making money or servicing its clients and will these likely be the same clients you’ve had in the past?  This may touch on marketing, hiring, sales and other personnel before you’re done.  At a minimum, your project plan will want to have a section on researching what has changed in the business mechanics.

What about new opportunities?

It may be too early to think about new opportunities due to all the changes that have ensued, but there are bound to be some.  It would make sense to have some part of your organization looking to see where changes in behavior or standards will open up markets that hadn’t existed in the past.

Now that we’re back, let’s not do it again

For some organizations, the decentralization of all the staff to be able to work remotely was painful.  With everyone back together, it wouldn’t be unfair for management to ask that contingency plans for future disasters be reviewed and updated.  We’ve had clients ask already to migrate their project and timesheet systems to Software as a Service subscription models that we offer from the on-premise systems they have now.  There may be many places in your just completed business continuity project that would be worthwhile to get into ‘lessons for the future’ so they can be taken advantage of if we ever have such an experience again.

It’s not too early.  Project Managers are the forward thinkers in the organization and that talent is just as essential as it was a few weeks ago.  It’s time to get a draft project started and start getting input from the many people who will need to contribute to it over time.  The earlier and more extensive your planning is, the more likely it will make the transition to the next phase in this pandemic response easier.