Breaking the Isolation by Getting Creative on Project Work

colorful origami paper cranes

It’s now eight months since the start of Covid. For most of us, no physical contact with our project team members or stakeholders. Lots of meetings but an overriding feeling of isolation. Not really being close as a team. Operating on our own islands—in our living rooms, kitchens, dens, and bedrooms.

There is some upside to the isolation situation. Reformed dine-out enthusiasts have learned how to bake. And young people, like my daughter, are discovering that knitting and crocheting are not just for Grandma.

But on a work basis, it’s becoming a bit more challenging. Those virtual happy hours and coffee calls are starting to become tiresome. What can we do to break the isolation and get our team members interacting together?

Below are three suggestions that might perhaps improve our work delivery and offer us some personal satisfaction at the same time.

Challenge your project basics

There is nothing like a good creative brain-storming session to get people working together and away from their isolation. Host an interactive working session where you challenge a project team and stakeholders to make sure that everyone is operating as one for the following core project elements:

  • Where are we going? (Scope, business drivers, dependencies, risks, target state)
  • How and when will we get there? (Roadmap)

It’s amazing how rarely a simple session like the above is executed. Get everyone around the virtual table, talk it through, and agree the tune to which everyone will be marching—albeit in our living rooms. It can be fun, and very rewarding.

Provide refresher training

One of the issues of being isolated is that we can get away with not following good process or become a little jaded with regard to the quality of our deliverables. Now is a great time to provide training courses to refresh some key skillsets. Getting people in the same session, for interactive, hands-on training, is a great way to break the isolation and have the team participating together. And if the team members work together to prepare and deliver the training materials, even better.

Draw some pictures

We sit through meeting after meeting. Our attention spans are diminishing. I’d much rather look at a good picture than be forced to slog through a bunch of verbiage.

So why don’t we create more diagram-based deliverables? A lot of our core activities–dashboard updates, steering team presentations, target state models, roadmaps–look so much better when we employ pictures/graphics/diagrams. We don’t have to be Visio experts–Excel and PowerPoint work.

Challenge ourselves and our team members to produce something new and refreshing for the deliverables above. Form small groups that will work together to produce that radical target state model, or that zingy new steering team dashboard. People are proud when they can produce and present something new. Give them that opportunity.

We probably have at least another four months of lockdown so we have to think up new ways to break the isolation and have our team members interacting together.

Try some of the above suggestions. The key is making things interactive. We all know that when using tools like Teams and Zoom it is all too easy to shut our video, mute our microphone, and zoom out. The best online training is interactive–have Q&A or similar every five or so minutes, involve the attendees in activities where they are encouraged to participate and want to as well. If we can have the sessions prepared and presented by our fellow team members, that’s an additional way to get more people involved and have ownership. Break the isolation.