BLOG: the truth about project management in challenging settings

2 October 2018 | Aktis Staff

In this blog we reflect on the realities of managing projects in challenging contexts and highlight the need to be adaptive and agile.



Working remotely from my cousin’s living room in Hargeisa, the sound of the neighbourhood kids playing and the bleating of goats, accompanied my introduction to the world of project management. After a few skype training sessions, which served as my crash course in project management, I was tasked with setting up our project on Aktis’ internal systems including adding a multitude of expense categories. Little did I know that this and other seemingly mundane tasks would be setting the foundations of my project management career. Through the past six months I have gained wonderful experiences and learned a few key takeaway ideas for project management IRL (In Real Life).   


'Change is the constant you can rely on, you need to be adaptive'


At Aktis we often talk about ‘Agile Project Management’. When I started working in the company this was an abstract concept. I couldn’t understand how this would be applied in our project. Getting absorbed in the minutiae of the project finances and administration made it hard to remember how I could improve my job by thinking and acting in an agile way. After a couple of months, I realised that the crux of this concept relies on the understanding that change is the constant you can rely on and that you need to be adaptive, to be agile. You need to be prepared to have to change quickly to new situations and find the best way to do things. It’s a lot of troubleshooting. 


'People and their relationships with each other can impact the project more than the best laid workplans'


Something that surprised me was the impact that people have on projects. People and their relationships with each other impact the project more than the best laid workplans. Knowing what motivates people and how to best use this impacts the success of the project.   


'Communication and learning how to tailor your message to different audiences is an essential skill'


The most unanticipated takeaway for me was the importance of communication. The Latin root of communication 'communicare' meaning 'to share' explains this perfectly, you need to learn to tailor your message to be able to share it with different audiences. By stopping and thinking about who your audience is, what information they need and the best way to transmit this via interpersonal, nonverbal, written or oral communication will save you both time, misunderstanding and money.    


In essence, while theories of project management teach you to plan and do tasks in a specific way, project management IRL has shown me that you need to use your critical thinking and instincts to be agile, understand people and learn how to communicate effectively. All skills that can also be applied to other areas of your life.


One of the things I love about Aktis is that you are given opportunities to work on and travel to interesting projects and countries. I highly recommend travelling to the country where your project is implemented as it will help you to develop both contextual and project understanding.  The first time I deployed to Mogadishu, was also my first time back since I was three years old. For me it was a full circle moment. Through my work I was able to see the tangible impact I had by returning and contributing to the stabilisation and development process in Somalia.


This blog was written by one of our staff members. To preserve their security we opted to not include their name in this piece.