Project Management

Voices on Project Management

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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.

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3 Agile Disconnects We Need to Address

What to Expect: Anticipating and Adapting to Dynamic Economic Trends

Governance Models: The Secret to Successful Agile Projects

3 Valuable PM Lessons I Learned in 2023

The 4 P’s of Successful Modern PMs

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What to Expect: Anticipating and Adapting to Dynamic Economic Trends

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?

References

  1. JP Morgan: Economic Trends
  2. Economic outlook: A mild slowdown in 2024 and slightly improved growth in 2025
  3. UN: World Economic Situation and Prospects 2024
  4. McKinsey: What matters most? Eight CEO priorities for 2024
  5. CEOs Gain Confidence About 2024 On Hopes Of Lower Rates
Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: January 26, 2024 12:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

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

By Yasmina Khelifi, PMI-ACP, PMI-PBA, PMP

As I shared in Part 1 of my look at diverse project teams, global projects have become the norm in many industries, and a rich source of performance. Business is done in global English, so in a certain way, that influences the project’s culture. Fortunately, cultural diversity is still present. How do you become more culturally self-aware without falling on the traps of prejudices or wrong assumptions?

Over my career, I’ve been asked the following questions:

  • How long have you been living in France?
  • Were you hired because you speak Arabic?
  • Do you want to improve your French?
  • What’s your origin?

These questions may be full of good intentions, but can also sound naïve. How much can we guess from a family name? Family names have histories, and sometimes you inherit a name from past generations with whom you don’t have any links; or you may have typically French names but with foreign origins. For instance, one of my colleagues I've been working with for ages recently told me her mother was Polish. As the last name was French, I wouldn't have guessed it.

More importantly, how do the answers to these questions help you to become culturally more self-aware? Don't they reinforce our biases? (For the record, I was born in France and don’t speak Arabic.)

Here are four ways I’ve experimented to embrace a learning mindset:

  1. Set ground rules to ask personal questions

As a global project manager, it is key you discuss the ground rules and values with the team from the onset:

  • Show respect and kindness
  • Respect boundaries
  • Shall we use first names or last names? At the beginning of my career, one British colleague asked me: “What’s your nickname?” I discovered afterward that nicknames are commonly used in some cultures (but not necessarily in France, for instance). With the strong influence of English in business, we tend to use first names and nicknames, but it is better to check.
  • Another tricky aspect is the pronunciation of names. Fortunately, some social networks give you the possibility to record your name—though that doesn’t guarantee your name will be pronounced currently. You’ll have to be tolerant and accept deviations.
  1. Learn by asking

Include snippets of diversity learning in your day-to-day project activities with small actions; this can also be an indirect way to ask people.

  • Talk with colleagues when they have days off to understand what they celebrate (and how)
  • Include the main festivals/celebrations/holidays in the project calendar
  • Is there an intercultural club that organizes presentations at your workplace? If it doesn’t exist, why don’t you set one up? Or ask one member of your project team to make a short presentation about their countries/workplace as part of a small talk or happy hour session.
  • Since the pandemic, I’ve asked project team members to send me pictures of their countries. I display the picture in the “sharing video” tool at the beginning of our conference meeting. It helps us “travel” and ignites curiosity to other realities.
  • When I took part in events organized by our British colleagues, I was pleasantly surprised by the diverse questions about cuisine.

Don’t push back if you feel the colleague does not want to talk. Just because the projects are more international doesn’t mean we can ask any question.

  1. Learn through intercultural/language courses

For a few years, I’ve taken part in many intercultural courses—although some of my colleagues told me that can be stereotypical. It’s true that if you begin with a course without having had any practice, you might have some prejudices. Going back and forth between practice and theory enables you to take small steps and adjust—and learning will stick.

Learning languages is also my passion. Through this, I could discover a lot. Talking to people in their languages (or learning some words) forges stronger connections.

  1. Learn by practicing

Practice makes perfect. Through working with some of my African colleagues, I discovered how their societies are mixed. They have national holidays for Muslims and Christians. They are also comprised of many different ethnicities. For instance, Côte d'Ivoire is represented by more than 60 ethnics. It gives me humility to face my knowledge gaps.

Volunteering is another great way to learn as you go. You can deliver several projects with worldwide peers in a short period.

Global teams raise a set of challenges, but also provide a rich human experience. What other ways do you become more culturally self-aware in your project teams?

Posted by Yasmina Khelifi on: July 01, 2021 03:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)
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