Project Management

The Future's Here—Are You Ready?

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New technologies, shifting business needs, flexible delivery approaches and the move to The Project Economy—all of these things are changing the profession of project management. And that shift is only going to accelerate in 2020. 

In a recent episode of Projectified with hosts Tegan Jones and Stephen Maye, project and program management leaders shared their thoughts on emerging trends in the world of projects. Here are some edited highlights:

“I believe the future’s really bright for project and program managers,” said Narasimha Acharya, assistant director in the client technology practice at Ernst & Young in Atlanta. “But the role, the knowledge, the experience that we need to be successful is, of course, changing. And it will continue to change.” 

Acharya said project management practitioners need to “be the voice of change” in their organizations, and pursue the training and knowledge needed to lead, not just manage. 

Mike Palladino, head of the Agile Center of Excellence for Bristol-Myers Squibb outside of Philadelphia, noted that the current top 10 jobs today did not exist 10 years ago. And 10 years from now, the top 10 jobs will very likely be different again. 

But Palladino said we shouldn’t get overwhelmed by the pace of change and what it may or may not bring down the road. Instead, we should practice curiosity in the here and now. And an agile mindset helps, starting with the question: “What’s that one little thing we can do to improve what we’re doing?” 

“And if we can build that [curiosity] into our lives, we build that into the way that we work, we incrementally keep looking for different opportunities to improve and discover new ideas and different ways of working,” Palladino said.

Developing a habit of curiosity can help you prepare for what’s ahead. And as things change, project managers will need new skills, including how they use data, said Fernando Antonio Oliveira, the E2 program director for Embraer in São José dos Campos, Brazil.

“We see a lot of change in the way we treat data, the way we collect data, the way we understand how the project or program is going,” Oliveira said. This data-centric approach is driven in large part by artificial intelligence (AI) and other tools that can help project managers better anticipate and prevent risks, rather than reacting to them after they happen, he added.

Kaustuv Bagchi, head of India operations for oil and gas offshore projects for LT Hydrocarbon Engineering in Mumbai, India, said he hopes disruptive technology like AI will help new project managers be more efficient and allow them to focus on different skills. 

“Earlier the focus was on knowledge and experience; now…we have technology to support project management to an extent that experience is getting digitized, so the focus is going to be moving from knowledge to application of technology, and application of knowledge, and constant innovation.” 

As a new generation enters the workplace, new approaches and ways of thinking are changing and challenging traditional project management approaches as well.

Olivier Schmitt, CEO of The Project Group France SAS in Lyon, said he sees organizations struggling to integrate those new points of view.

“The conflict at the moment in [many] organizations is it’s moving very fast at the delivery level, and it’s still very conservative at the top management level, which makes a real problem in decision-making.”

No doubt, it’s going to be a vastly different world for the next generation of project leaders. In addition to becoming comfortable with new technologies, we also will need to be OK with ambiguity, Palladino said.

“Life isn’t crisp and clear, the future’s not crisp and clear,” he said. “We’re going to have to deal with those ambiguities, and we have to figure out a way to change our thinking that it’s not just about finding the right answer, it’s finding an answer, and that’s okay, let’s develop it. Let’s further explore it and improve it and continually enhance it.”

Handling ambiguity is clearly a needed skill—and Maye noted that Deloitte recently found that leading through complexity and ambiguity was the top skill needed for today’s (and tomorrow’s) leaders. 

What do you think?

Posted on: January 07, 2020 03:37 PM | Permalink

Comments (10)

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Dear Aaron
Very interesting is your reflection on the theme
Obtained by sharing

Two great tips:
- Practicing curiosity (would add critical thinking)
- Learn the leading through complexity and ambiguity

Hello Aaron: I have struggled with dealing with ambiguity in the past because I am someone who wants everything in a neat and tidy organized package. Being a project manager has taught me how to more effectively cope with and manage change. At this point, I can change gears quicker and can move forward even when every detail has not be totally figured out. Took years to get me this far and I still have a long ways to go! Thanks for your spot on article!

Thank you for sharing! I think the most difficulty for PM still be the management of human. Human are more and more becoming complex and unpredicted, especially in the temporary environment of projects. PM should continue to develop skills in working with people mixing of ages, cultures, and mindsets. For decades, we have witnessing new technologies born, new business models appeared, not have to wait for 2020 and later years to come.

supervising, managing and controlling resources is always an issue, thank you for sharing.

Thanks for the insight.

Great. Thanks, Aaron. Ambiguity is the seed of innovation.

Thank you, Aron. I found this very interesting: “The conflict at the moment in [many] organizations is it’s moving very fast at the delivery level, and it’s still very conservative at the top management level, which makes a real problem in decision-making.”

I love this podcast! Thanks for sharing your insights.

Dear Aaron,

One point you touched on is the rate and pace of change. We have heard about flying cars and robots taking our jobs for decades now but nothing has materialised from these trail of though. AI and machine learning are powerful tools but that what they are, tools. They still require human input in order to make them workable solutions.

Daire

Aaron,

Ambiguity opens the door to imagination.

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