Project Management

Emergent Strategy: How To Lead Now

From the Voices on Project Management Blog
by , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with--or even disagree with--leave a comment.

About this Blog

RSS

View Posts By:

Cameron McGaughy
Lynda Bourne
Kevin Korterud
Peter Tarhanidis
Conrado Morlan
Jen Skrabak
Mario Trentim
Christian Bisson
Yasmina Khelifi
Sree Rao
Soma Bhattacharya
Emily Luijbregts
David Wakeman
Ramiro Rodrigues
Wanda Curlee
Lenka Pincot
cyndee miller
Jorge Martin Valdes Garciatorres
Marat Oyvetsky

Past Contributors:

Rex Holmlin
Vivek Prakash
Dan Goldfischer
Linda Agyapong
Jim De Piante
Siti Hajar Abdul Hamid
Bernadine Douglas
Michael Hatfield
Deanna Landers
Kelley Hunsberger
Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina
Alfonso Bucero Torres
Marian Haus
Shobhna Raghupathy
Peter Taylor
Joanna Newman
Saira Karim
Jess Tayel
Lung-Hung Chou
Rebecca Braglio
Roberto Toledo
Geoff Mattie

Recent Posts

3 Ways to Challenge the Agile Norm

What’s In Your Return-To-Work Contract?

How To Foster Effective Group Decision Making

3 Tips for Avoiding the Single Point of Failure

The Power of Diverse Project Teams (Part 2): How To Elevate Your Cultural Awareness


Categories: Leadership


by Dave Wakeman

Did you get your vaccine yet? In the United States, we’ve done a good job of getting shots into people’s arms—and for the first time in a long time, things are starting to look normal. For project leaders, the ramp up and ramp down of the vaccination program is likely to be a good case study. But I don’t want to talk about that today, even though it’s amazing. Instead, I want to discuss an idea that’s close to the vaccine rollout and the leadership topics that I’ve been hitting on for the last year: the idea of how to lead now. Over the last year, I’ve gone back and taken a few classes so that at the end of the pandemic, I could be in a position to deal with whatever came next. 

One of the ideas I’ve been grappling with during my schoolwork has been the idea of emergent strategy. It’s a branch of strategic thinking that says that you might make a strategic plan, but what comes out the other side might be entirely different because your strategy has to react to the world it exists in. Sounds familiar, right? Isn’t that the world that project managers live in every day? Digging deeper, I realized that we can actually learn a few lessons on leading through the end of the pandemic using emergent strategy:

Flexibility wins: I’m all for planning like I’m sure most of the folks reading this are. But the pandemic has laid bare the idea that we can plan anything with certainty given how chaotic some of the news around the virus, the vaccines and the economy was. The lesson here is that we have to maintain our flexibility. 

This is the heart of emergent strategy. You pick a destination, make a plan, but recognize that you’re going to have to change course throughout the project to achieve success. The big difference I see from normal project thinking is that in an environment like this, the formal change process likely must be managed more tightly. 

Don’t be wed to preconceived ideas: Change is constant—we know that now more than ever. One challenge of leadership in modern times, especially on projects, is that we can’t know everything. The thing about this is that we also tend to hang onto our preconceived view of the project, the plan or the world around us. This “change is happening faster than ever before” narrative is a bit overblown, but what I do know is that our day-to-day reality can be impacted pretty quickly and we need to be able to rethink the context of a project.

Be open to feedback all around you: The key here is to pay attention to what the world is telling you. These “signals” may come in the form of news reports, conversations, premonitions or experience. Be aware of what’s going on around you and try to gain a holistic feeling for the world that your project exists in. 

This can be difficult to do because in the same way that there’s a lot of important information to study and deal with, there’s a lot of noise that can get in the way of good decision making as well. So you need to constantly balance the signals and the noise to keep your project moving forward.

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Posted by David Wakeman on: May 22, 2021 10:32 AM | Permalink

Comments (2)

Please login or join to subscribe to this item
Dear David
Very interesting the theme that brought to our reflection and debate
Thanks for sharing and for your opinions
What happened in the pandemic?
Suspension of some businesses (very few ... mainly related to tourism, namely aviation and hospitality, catering, and sale of products face to face (ex: sale of footwear and clothing).
The restaurant started selling its take-away products.
Clothing and footwear players selling their products online.
There were businesses that suffered a great boost, namely logistics.)
Now that activities are resuming in all sectors of activity (industries), what will change in the strategy of organizations beyond the process of digital transformation? (which was already underway before the pandemic).
I am convinced it was just a suspension (for a year)

Wow! Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

Please Login/Register to leave a comment.

ADVERTISEMENTS

"When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge."

- Albert Einstein