Rethinking Teams


Project management in the time of Covid


By Dr. Lynda Bourne

Melbourne, Australia

This year in Australia we are averaging COVID 50 deaths each day; this data is hard to find even on Department of Health websites.[1] We are now experiencing a very cold winter and there are warnings about greatly increased influenza infections along with continued COVID infections. Ironically, we are ‘living with COVID’. What ‘living with COVID means in Australia is that most restrictions have been lifted: our borders are open, masks are now only required in a small number of circumstances such as public transport and air travel. Most importantly project workers are now able to return to their offices, but many are reluctant to do so. Reluctance to return to the office is not unique to Australia; it is now common in many other countries.

This is the third paper in the series: PM in the time of COVID, offering ideas for reviewing and reforming the practice of project management, focused on experiences in Australia but also reflecting on global experiences. In the previous paper Rethinking Governance and Leadership, I did not propose any radical changes, merely a strong reminder about how governance and leadership should be done to benefit successful project management and the delivery of value to the organizations. That paper described basic elements of leadership most appropriate for rebuilding and reforming resource management post-COVID.

This paper will discuss issues that must considered for managing resources in the post-COVID age where material resources are in short supply, costs are rising and many office-based workers are reluctant to return to the office, leaving major experience gaps.

This paper is organized as follows: firstly, a description of the current situation in ‘living with COVID’ with regard to acquiring and supporting teams and team members, and dealing with the residual issues of the pandemic – anxiety, loss of control over the work product and re-negotiating work-life balance. The second section will focus on new modes of working – In-office or a hybrid, flexible mode, examining the advantages and disadvantages of these modes from the perspective of both workers and organizations. The third part discusses how best to manage teams in the hybrid mode, based on the learnings from the previous decade’s use of virtual teams. The final section discusses urgent emerging issues, shortages of experienced staff, and how to reform training, acquisition and retention of project team members.

After Lockdown – the aftermath

Organizations must prepare for ‘afterwards’ and seek opportunities to reform people management processes and practices through:

  • Recognition that the current climate of uncertainty is still causing anxiety for workers.
  • Addressing the complexities of project relationships within teams, and among other stakeholders who have experienced a different mode of team and project working over the past two years.
  • Supporting the development of resilience and adaptability to enable effective delivery of outcomes in the changing contexts of uncertainty.
  • Re-negotiating work-life balance.

The work of project management is complicated[2]: and often complex[3] due to the combination of technical and operational intricacy within the web of relationships of the stakeholder community. Uncertainty and unpredictability are always present in projects, but now with experiences of the disruptions of the pandemic many project workers are more sensitive to uncertainty. They revisit those feelings of uncertainty in the new or emerging ‘normal’ post-pandemic. The ongoing causes of anxiety can be some or all of the following:


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Editor’s note: This series is by Dr. Lynda Bourne, author of the books Stakeholder Relationship Management: A Maturity Model for Organisational Implementation (2009), Advising Upwards: A Framework for Understanding and Engaging Senior Management Stakeholders (2011) and several others.  She is a globally-recognized expert on project stakeholder engagement, risk management and other PM-related topics. 

How to cite this paper: Bourne, L. (2022). Rethinking Teams: Project Management in the time of Covid, series article, PM World Journal, Vol. XI, Issue VII, July. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/pmwj119-Jul2022-Bourne-Rethinking-teams-pm-in-the-time-of-covid-series.pdf

About the Author

Dr. Lynda Bourne

Melbourne, Australia


Lynda Bourne DPM, FACS is a senior management consultant, professional speaker, teacher and an award-winning project manager with 50 years professional industry experience. She has been focussed on the delivery of stakeholder management and other project related consultancy, mentoring and training for clients world-wide.

She has presented at conferences and seminars in South America, Europe, Russia, Asia, New Zealand and Australia to audiences of industry leaders and project managers in the IT, construction, defence and mining industries and has been keynote speaker at meetings and workshops within organisations in the finance and utilities sector.

In 2010 she was engaged as visiting professor at EAN University, Bogota, Colombia, teaching leadership in the Masters of PM Program for five years.

Most recently she was a member of the Faculty of Information Technology, Monash University, lecturing in IT management subjects, in particular, stakeholder management, communication and leadership.

Lynda Bourne has authored the following books:

  • Stakeholder Relationship Management: A Maturity Model for Organisational Implementation, (Gower Publishing Ltd, Aldershot – 2009)
  • Project Relationship Management and the Stakeholder Circle: A guide for developing stakeholder management maturity in organisations (2010)
  • Advising Upwards: A Framework for Understanding and Engaging Senior Management Stakeholders, (Gower Publishing Ltd, Aldershot – 2011)
  • Making projects and programs work: What really matters for achieving successful project and program outcomes (2015)

She can be contacted at lynda.bourne@gmail.com

To view other works by Lynda Bourne, visit her author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/dr-lynda-bourne/

[1] https://theconversation.com/ COVID Deaths barely mentioned in the media (downloaded June 23, 2022)

[2] Complicated = a large number of interconnected and interdependent parts.

[3] Project work is complex if it consists of many interdependent parts each of which can change in ways that are not totally predictable and which can then have unpredictable impacts on other elements that are themselves capable of change