Project-based Smart Working and the Project Economy

How does Project-based Smart Working enable the change that businesses need to survive COVID?

Project-based smart working
Credit: Pixabay

As COVID-19 continues to spread, governments tell us that we can no longer meet in large groups, travel, etc. For months, possibly till they find a vaccine. Central banks and governments almost everywhere are launching major monetary and fiscal help initiatives to keep the global economy going.

Businesses and other organisations can use that help to implement new ways of getting things done, such as Smart Working and Project-based Working.

They should assume that many of these changes will not be temporary. The world post-COVID-19 will be different.

Project-based Smart Working

Smart Working refers to work performed all or mainly from home/ away from the traditional office. Using technology such as phones (mainly of the mobile kind), email and other office software such as spreadsheets and video conferences to communicate.

Smart Working has been used for many years, yet only a small percentage of organisations took advantage of it. Partly due to limited tech understanding of management and long-established organisational culture.

Project-based Working refers to work that is done on a temporary basis, with a specified (estimated) period of time, cost and goals. Classic examples include strategic change and new product development. But many more activities could be organised that way.

Project-based Working has also been around for a while. Yet most organisations are just good at operations (business as usual). Partly due to the relatively stable macro environment pre-COVID-19 and culture.

We argue that Project-based Working should be a feature of Smart Working, going forward. Call it Project-based Smart Working. This will provide a higher degree of flexibility to all sorts of organisations.

All of them will need to become more adaptive in a more uncertain future.

We believe that the health crisis is accelerating a process that, driven by technological innovation, was already underway: the extinction of the 9-to-5 permanent worker.  

The Project Economy

COVID-19 is a terrible event. But we should not waste this crisis. Eventually, we will get thru it and because of it have better systems and mechanisms in place, which fit a world where catastrophic events force lockdowns of the economy with increased frequency.

(Climate change-induced extreme weather events spring to mind.)

COVID-19 is forcing organisations to try new ways of working, finally taking advantage of ideas and technologies already here. This will lead to widespread adoption of better ways of getting things done, such as Project-based Smart Working.

This will then support the creation of a new, more flexible economy. A more human one too, where:

  • people will not need to work all the time, full-time: they will be a) able to choose what projects to work on, how many days (hours) per week, when and for how long, and b) rewarded well for their project contributions
  • organisations will not need to produce goods and services all the time: they will be structured and run in such a way that they will be able to adapt to a changing world, where constant growth (no matter what the shortcuts, and the environmental impact) will no longer be the only thing their shareholders care about 
  • financial markets will better value assets in good and bad times, allocating resources in smarter ways

The Project Management Institute (PMI), a leading professional body, has a name for something like this: the Project Economy.

Final thoughts

We have been advocating and practising Project-based Smart Working for some time. It offers several advantages not only in a lockdown situation but also in general. It also brings new challenges, but they can be managed. (We will cover them in a future article.)

We hope that the COVID-19 crisis will finally force organisations to replace ‘work hard’ with ‘work smart’ (in facts rather than words). And that it will force society to put projects – and people (100% of them) – at the core of the new economic and financial systems.

Governments must play new roles and ensure that the new economy will work for all, not just the usual 1%. Otherwise, it will just be the Gig Economy.


To learn how we can help you implement Project-based Smart Working and other strategic changes:

Strategic Management services


Mauro Tortone

View posts by Mauro Tortone
Mauro helps financial services, technology and mobility businesses manage change and leads the Strategy & Finance practice. His expertise is in strategic change, capital markets and more. Mauro has over 25 years of experience working with banks such as UBS and Deutsche Bank, smaller financials, fintechs and others across Europe, the US and Asia. He sat on the CISI Corporate Finance Forum Committee for ten years and is passionate about sustainability.
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