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Managing a Publication Project During a Pandemic

Project managers have the responsibility of organizing and directing the completion of projects. In normal times, this might mean making sure the project stays within scope, doesn’t go over budget, and is completed on time. However, this year brought about a change none of us expected, adding an extra layer of challenge and forcing project managers into unchartered territory.

Over the past year, CanLII worked with over 30 volunteers to compile an open BC litigation practice manual. Looking back on this experience, there are a few things I’ve learned about managing a project during a pandemic that I’d like to share.

Be flexible. We were a large group working on a new project, and we needed time to settle into our new responsibilities as a team. COVID added other challenges such as working from home with kids or substituting for absent colleagues. We needed to reevaluate our project expectations and specifically the timelines.

Thankfully, the BC Manual project was already being conducted online, and the majority of content had been submitted by volunteers before the pandemic started. Our goals remained the same and we didn’t have to change course — we just needed to keep moving forward.

We were also grateful to have been given more time from our grant funders. However, it was helpful to think about what we could do if we didn’t get that extra time, such as reevaluating the project scope, or bringing on more people.

Thanks to the dedication of our volunteers and management team, we were able to release the results of this collaboration this year. More details and a link to the resource can be found on our blog.

What’s the worst that could happen? Nobody likes to think about the absolute worst case scenario (or maybe they do), but when it comes to project management, it’s a good thing to consider if some external, uncontrollable and unforeseen thing were to happen and completely derail your project. If this project were to fail, how badly would it affect your company’s reputation? Are we prepared to lose the time and costs invested in this project? In the event our external funding runs out, is there internal funding we can rely on?

Take breaks when you need to recharge, but try to keep momentum. For a short period of time when the pandemic started, there was little communications about the project within our team. This break felt needed, but I was concerned that the longer the break, the harder it would be to get back on track. By keeping the communications and information flowing, you can help the team stay focused and connected. When communicating with everyone, it was important to be encouraging and positive. These writers were giving us their time and energy after all!

I imagine many of you have been managing projects in the past year. What helped you to get through? If you have any tips to share, please let me know!

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