Project Management Trends 2023: How to Stay Ahead of The Curve

Another year seems to be closing with many of us saying “Where has the year gone?” and “I’m exhausted!”.

And there’s good reason for this – the world has opened up again in full force!

For businesses (and their project teams), many lost a large part of the first quarter to lockdowns and preparing to bring people back into offices and business operations. This only left a couple of months to get on to executing plans dating back 1 to 2 years.

We’ve had to hit the ground running with a new hybrid mode of operating which has brought with it a plethora of cultural, emotional, and physical challenges.

Lots of project plans have slipped due to a fluctuation of people being unavailable due to illness or logistical delays.

And the people in our project teams who have been on deck, have picked up way more than what is normal for their roles just to keep up with project delivery. Not to mention all the things that have been going on at home. It’s no wonder we are feeling exhausted!

With such a crazy roller coaster ride in 2022, what should we expect in 2023? Will an endless chasing of our tails be the new norm?

Here are my predictions for project management and project teams for the year ahead.

A slow start to the year

I don’t think our levels of exhaustion should be underestimated.

Sure, we’ve all been busy before and desperately feeling like we need a break. However, what most people have endured over the past 2-3 years goes beyond simply just being busy!

The emotional strain and the things that have gone unsaid are both factors that will determine how we start off the year. For some of us, the holiday break will only give us enough time to see our loved ones and have a few more celebrations, but it won’t be enough to actually check in with ourselves as to what we want and need.

If this is your reality then I suspect the new year will start off slower than you or your organisation has planned.

I expect the fatigue to continue in the new year, with most people easing back into the first quarter much more slowly. I would not recommend hard deadlines (if you can help it of course) to be met in February or March.

Resource shortages

The resource problem is a real one and it exists for two reasons.

First, because of the rise of illness, it is virtually impossible to factor in when and how frequently people will be unavailable. And because more people are working under exhaustive conditions, they are more susceptible to getting sick.

Second, for specialist roles, we have always relied on both local and international resources. Because of our current environment, our international resources are just not as keen to make the move. For this reason, the asking price of good people has sky-rocketed putting some of these people out of the project budget or making them simply hard to find.

I anticipate more people will test the market and change jobs unless they are incentivised to stay. People will take advantage of the fact that more companies are offering to pay more money and better work from home packages to attract stronger candidates and so will seek the greener grass.

More hybrid working

Hybrid working models are here to stay, we know that. But under this new model several challenges continue to become apparent.

There are two main challenges I am seeing and anticipate will cause increasing problems unless they are addressed by organisations and their leaders.

The first challenge is having people consistently not switching on their cameras for online meetings. This issue is becoming more than just a problem – it’s becoming the norm.

While it may seem insignificant, cameras off is often the first sign of people disengaging and leading to risks on projects.

Over the year I’ve seen several examples of trust being depleted because leaders and team members don’t feel they truly know what people are doing when their cameras are off, resulting in division within teams and those who do turn up taking on more work.

The second challenge is people not coming into the office regardless of countless company incentives.

If you work or lead an exclusively remote team, this may be your reality. But regardless of whether you have an exclusively remote work project team or a hybrid one, the underlying issue you need to prevent is the same – disconnection of people.

Meeting physically even if just once or twice a week allows people to have incidental conversations and address those unplanned things that come up. Even in a remote team, creating time for teams to have free conversations without an agenda, encourages these types of incidental issues to be addressed, creates inclusion, and reminds people that they have a common interest and are supported.

For companies who have acknowledged this to be a problem and realise the significance of the risks, I anticipate seeing more initiatives to improve staff engagement and connection.

Physical and mental health programs

With an increase in work and financial pressures, disconnection and disengagement resulting from isolation, illness, and the blurred lines between work and home responsibilities, it should come as no surprise that our physical and mental health is paying the price.

In research reported by Beyond Blue “One in five Australians (21%) have taken time off work in the past 12 months because they felt stressed, anxious, depressed or mentally unhealthy.”

When the market is suffering from a resource shortage, losing 21% of your people over a 12-month period creates significant cost, time, and business impact, resulting in an overall unsustainable business model.

For companies who have seen and felt the loss of their people because of mental health issues, planning to better support their people to effectively manage their physical and mental health will be high on the agenda.

What you can do to prepare for the project management trends of 2023

While some of these trends will require more time, planning and resources to see the full benefits, there are still some immediate steps any organisation can take to prepare and get ahead of the trends.

Preparing for a slow start to the year

  • Don’t create deadlines in February or March
  • Use this time to help people be clearer on their roles
  • Create more boundaries to reduce any issues from the previous year that led to exhaustion

Preparing for the resource shortage

  • Ensure you understand your staff’s immediate needs, not just their career growth ones
  • If you are considering employment incentives, do this in collaboration with the staff you are seeking to retain, otherwise it may just be a waste of time
  • If you’re looking for a role in projects but lack some experience to make the move you want to make, you might need to get creative with how you go about finding opportunities. Don’t just send an email reply to job ads. Instead, attend more face-to-face events like conferences and networking opportunities. You have a much better chance of making an impression in person by approaching people and talking about what you offer and how you’ve helped relieve pain points than you ever could with a resume

Preparing for more hybrid working

  • Be more considerate about why people are being invited to meetings and if they really need to be there
  • If members of your project team need to receive a message, take on a task or make a decision, make this clear to them in advance so they can be properly prepared and know the expectations of their attendance (which includes turning on their camera)

Preparing for physical and mental health programs

  • Adjust your goals and strategy to provide your people with a bit more breathing room. If this sounds like preparing for a loss, consider the gains you could achieve by strategically managing targets to bring back at least some of the 21% of people you may have otherwise lost
  • Make a habit of reviewing past project performance and consistently implementing improvements

There are so many things to look forward to in 2023

Even with the challenges of the year behind us and new challenges on the horizon, 2023 is shaping up to be a great year for projects. I hope to see you delivering powerful projects with your team in the new year.

If you’d like to get a head start on your 2023 projects, book a discovery call with me to learn how I can help you and your project team. 

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