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By Peter Tarhanidis, Ph.D.
In the ever-evolving landscape of corporate strategic planning, organizations face the perpetual dilemma of choosing between capital spending for growth—and optimizing operations for efficiency. Striking the right balance amidst economic trends and leveraging organizational strengths becomes paramount when navigating through strategic projects. Meeting shareholder and stakeholder needs, while aligning with the organization's mission, presents a constant challenge.
To anticipate potential initiatives, project managers must consider global macroeconomic conditions and CEO outlooks. A preliminary assessment based on the United Nations World Economic Situation and Prospects and OECD Economic Outlook reports for 2024 reveals a projected global economic growth slowdown from 2.7% to 2.4%. This trend suggests a delicate balance between slow growth and regional divergences. Key considerations include:
- Global inflation showing signs of easing from 5.7% to a projected 3.9%
- Slowed global investment trends due to uncertainties, debt burdens and interest rates
- Fading global trade growth attributed to shifting consumer expenditure, geopolitical tensions, supply chain troubles, pandemic effects and protectionist policies
- Notable regional examples include the United States expecting a GDP drop from 2.5% to 1.4%, China experiencing a modest slowdown from 5.3% to 4.7%, Europe and Japan projecting growth rates of 1.2%, and Africa's growth expected to slightly increase from 3.3% to 3.5%
Examining the corporate landscape, a survey of 167 CEOs in December 2023 indicated a confidence index of 6.3 out of 10 for the 2024 economy—the highest of the year. The CEO upsurge assumes inflation is under control, the Fed may not raise interest rates and instead reverse rates, setting up a new cycle of growth. Furthering the CEO agenda, McKinsey & Co. identified eight CEO 2024 priorities:
- Innovating with GEN AI to dominate the future
- Outcompeting with technology to drive value
- Driving energy transition for net zero, decarbonization, and scaling green businesses
- Cultivating institutional capability for competitive advantage
- Building out middle managers
- Positioning for success amidst geopolitical risks
- Developing growth strategies for continued outperformance
- Considering the broader macroeconomic wealth picture for identifying growth
As project managers, navigating the uncertainty of economic shifts necessitates staying vigilant. The year may bring variables and predictions that impact the execution probability of strategic projects. Shifting between growth plans and efficiency drivers demands different preparation. To stay prepared, consider the following:
- Regularly monitor global economic indicators and CEO outlooks
- Foster agility within the team to adapt to changing priorities
- Develop scenario plans that account for potential economic shifts
- Collaborate with key stakeholders to gather real-time insights
- Continuously reassess project priorities based on evolving economic conditions
In an environment of perpetual change, proactive monitoring, adaptability and strategic collaboration will be key to successfully steering projects through the dynamic economic landscape.
How else can you stay prepared as the demands shift on you and your team?