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With most project and program managers working remotely since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, not every project goes according to plan. While some uncertainties can be built into many projects, the pandemic has layered additional volatility and chaos. Program and project managers will be in uncharted territory for the near future and potentially much longer, depending on the final impact of COVID-19.

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Although these professionals are versed in dealing with ambiguity, how much uncertainty will be tolerable and workable, and how will project and program managers improve delivery during so much volatility?

With an estimated $8 trillion in capital delivery expected to continue throughout 2020, McKinsey outlined three key challenges that project and program managers will likely face:

  • Cash and working capital becoming increasingly scarce as the economy struggles, combined with already low cash reserves

  • Fluctuating guidance and restrictions due to uncertainty with governments balancing healthcare outcomes with reopening the economy

  • Market conditions that are already strained, with potential insolvencies or bankruptcies

How will project and program managers improve delivery?

Improving project and program delivery following the pandemic will rely on these four common horizons of response and how well organizations fared at each stage, according to KPMG.


How well remote teams have adapted to the disruption and the resulting rapid and large-scale shift to remote work is crucial, especially as a remote workforce requires changing processes to govern product or service delivery and finding new ways of working together seamlessly. Effective collaboration and a focus on governance should be key objectives for remote project and program teams. The focus at this stage will be continuity.


After adapting to the remote working model, the changing external business environment requires potentially revisiting business cases and project scope to ensure both are still relevant. It could be that an organization may have shifted from manufacturing a daily household item to hand sanitizers, protective equipment, or other items. This change would require project and program managers to revisit the goals and direction of the deliverables. Here, the focus at this stage will be sustainability.

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Once a new direction is determined, project and program managers need to determine and facilitate logistics. This means finding a stable and timely means to deliver products under new post-COVID market conditions, which are likely to be slower and more restrictive. Depending on the product being delivered, there may also be regulatory hurdles and approvals that need to be considered. Viability will be the key focus at this stage.

Adjusting to the new reality

Under the current market conditions, project selection approaches and delivery will likely be changed. Project and program leaders will need to become more flexible, and teams will need to use methodologies such as Agile to ensure they can meet a customer’s new demands under potentially ever-changing conditions. The goal in this stage will be future growth.

Throughout each of the four stages that focus on continuity, sustainability, viability, and future growth, KPMG notes key questions that project and program managers will need to answer. Project and program managers have the skills and knowledge to help organizations successfully execute complex projects, even during times of uncertainty. The key is recognizing environmental changes, enabling remote teams to adapt, and helping organizations make the necessary shift to react, become resilient, stay viable, and adjust to the new reality.