By Lynda Bourne
Ptolemy's world map (source: Wikipedia)
Do modern project managers and their clients rely on their charts and reports too much? We all know that project schedules, cost reports, risk assessments and other reports are produced by sophisticated computer software, these days increasingly enhanced by artificial intelligence. But does this sophisticated processing mean the charts are completely reliable?
The modern world is increasingly reliant on computer systems to direct and control many aspects of life—from self-driving cars, to autonomous warehouses, to the flight control systems in aircraft. But can this reliance on computer systems be translated to project controls information, or do we need a more ancient mindset?
Modern navigators rely on the accuracy of their GPS to know exactly where they are and where they are going. The autopilots are better than the human, but the data being used is precise and validated.
The same level of reliability and accuracy cannot be applied to project controls data. Every estimate is an assessment of what may occur in the future based on what happened in the past. Even when a sophisticated risk model is built, the P80 or P90 result is based on subjective range estimates taken from past events.
The future may unfold within the expected parameters, and it may not. We simply cannot determine the future in advance. While the quality of the project predictions is based on the quality of the data being used in the modelling processes (and the only guaranteed fact is the model will be incorrect), predictions do not control the future. The key question is: How useful are the models in helping navigate the project through to a successful conclusion? [Remember GIGO (garbage in, garbage out)?!]
In days gone by, navigators did not need accurate charts and satnav systems to reach their destinations. The Viking and Polynesian navigators crossed thousands of miles of open ocean to land on small islands using observations of the natural environment and tacit knowledge passed down from earlier generations. They knew certain seabird species only ventured relatively short distances from land, how clouds formed and changed over land, etc., augmented by primitive technologies.
Fast-forward a few centuries, and the early European navigators (Columbus, Magellan, Drake, Cook and countless others) had steadily improving charts that made navigating easier—but they also knew the best charts available were not accurate. The general shape of the world had been mapped since the time of Ptolemy (circa 150 CE), and as better information became available, better maps and charts were created. But these are still continuing to be improved into the 21st century.
So how did people navigate the globe without accurate maps and charts? I suggest there were four core elements in the approach, all of which can be applied to modern project management:
To move from assuming controls information is correct, to seeing it as a useful guide that can be improved as better knowledge becomes available, requires a paradigm shift in thinking that sits comfortably alongside many of the concepts of agile.
The future is inherently uncertain and we can learn a lot from the way early navigators used imprecise charts to sail the oceans. Navigating the globe in past centuries and leading a project to a successful conclusion are both risky endeavours; this fact needs to be accepted, and the risks minimized by using the best available charts—while being aware of their limitations.
What do you think?
By Peter Tarhanidis, Ph.D.
One of the impacts artificial intelligence has had is prompting a reconstitution of project management. Here I look to leading industry experts to explore the benefits to project management systems due to matured AI software; and the maturity of the project manager as a data- and fact-driven champion of business outcomes and innovation. This combination of advanced project systems performance and leadership competence will significantly transform project success rates.
As a background to the current state of project management, HBR states that $48 trillion is invested annually in projects. The Standish Group notes that only 35% of projects are successful, and 65% of projects waste resources and have unrealized benefits.
Additionally, Proofhub attributes project failure to firms that lack project management delivery systems; they are prone to miss targets and overspend. It noted that 67% of projects fail because project management is undervalued; 44% of all managers do not believe in the importance of project management software; and 46% of firms place a high priority on project management. Also noted: Utilizing a good software program reduces failure by 10%, and scope creep by 17%.
More specifically, a PMI Learning Library article noted some reasons for project failure:
Gartner Inc. analysts predict that by 2030, AI software—driven by conversational AI, machine learning and robotic process automation for gathering data, reporting and tracking—will eliminate 80% of all project management office tasks. Gartner identifies project management disruption in six aspects:
PwC envisions AI-enabled project management software will improve a project leader’s decision-making process across the following five key areas crucial to success:
PwC posits the advancements in project management software are an opportunity for firms and leaders that are most ready to take advantage of this disruption and reap the rewards.
AI’s capability to assess disparate sources of big data to obtain actionable insights arms project managers with improved decision-making competence throughout the project lifecycle. However, a challenge noted by PwC’s recent analysis of OECD data (covering 200,000 jobs in 29 countries) warns that AI’s job displacement effect will automate 30% of jobs involving administrative manual tasks by the mid-2030s. This indicates a clear need to upskill project manager competence in order to thrive in the future.
In order to succeed, a firm’s culture of adaptability and lifelong learning is a cornerstone for shifting today’s project management roles into the future. They will need to expand competence in soft skills, business and management skills, technical and digital skills—all working in concert with each other.
IAPM states project managers will face fundamental changes over the next 10 years with job descriptions and roles. It suggests AI will make logical analysis and decisions, allowing the PM to focus their main area of responsibility on creativity, resolving conflicts, and innovation.
Lastly, with any transformation or disruption, one must consider the actions and obstacles—whether financial, management support, or workforce ability—to embrace and enact change. Here are some key considerations to reflect on:
Post your thoughts in the comments!
By Peter Tarhanidis, Ph.D.
There is a dramatic increase in the strategies corporations implement to meet the needs of their stakeholders. Driving value from all parts of an organization and its functions may seem like repetitive exercises—and even feel more like a medieval gauntlet with only a few successful programs. HBR (2021) wrote that by 2027, about 88 million people will be working in project management—with economic activity reaching $20 trillion USD. Also noted: Only 35% of projects are successful, leaving immense waste of resources.
There are many reasons projects fail. HBR (2021) states of the 70% of failed projects, and after exhaustive root-cause analysis across all industries, one can identify common themes such as undervaluing project management skills and methods, and poor performance. Yet organizations that apply project management methods recognized their performance had a 2.5 more times chance to be successful, and organizations can waste 28 times less resources. As such, when applied, the implementation of PM methods works.
Yet in a world filled with a variety of project taxonomies, many organizational boards are now contemplating the need to implement environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) and corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs. Forbes states the benefits of ESG and CSR initiatives include:
Therefore, to ensure success for ESG and CSR programs, an organization’s top leaders need to prioritize and align across all the organization’s businesses. Leaders can use the balanced scorecard to achieve this alignment, and can extend its use across the entire project portfolio.
This theory was developed by Kaplan and Norton, which state the balanced scorecard method converts the organization’s strategy into performance objectives, measures, targets and initiatives. Linking the concept of cause and effect, the balanced scorecard covers four perspectives:
Marr (N.B.) reported over 50% of companies have used this approach in the United States, the United Kingdom, Northern Europe and Japan. One clear benefit has been to align the organization’s structure to achieve its strategic goals.
In conclusion, applying project management methods and aligning an organization’s performance through the balanced scorecard can unlock ESG and CSR benefits that can supercharge a company’s efforts to achieve its mission.
By Peter Tarhanidis, Ph.D.
Never has the new year’s greeting “wishing you health, wealth, and prosperity” rang truer. Over the last several years, we have all lived through uncertainty. This year, we hoped to lurch out of a post-pandemic crisis into a new normal with a vibrant outlook…yet quickly staggered into a slipping economic uncertainty that sharply cut short the prospects of our envisioned “normal” state.
JP Morgan’s 2023 economic outlook for the United States indicates a slowing growth rate, monetary tightening, and curbing inflation, while healthy consumer and business balance sheets could offer some growth prospects. The Conference Board observes longer-term geopolitical, environmental, labor, and inflation risks beyond 2023.
Many organizations will ebb and flow within this shifting cycle. Organizations that are well-positioned will have a better chance to adapt to the external challenges of shifting global markets to meet customer needs. They must simultaneously find the agility necessary to mitigate the internal challenges of a reduced workforce, increasing costs for goods and services, climbing interest rates, and the overall health of a company’s finances and workforce. This will challenge organizations to stay focused and chart a path forward.
This is reminiscent of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew of the Endurance, which embarked on a daring expedition from the UK to Antarctica and the South Pole in 1914. Along the voyage, the crew became stranded for over two years. The Endurance became trapped in the ice while the crew waited 10 months for spring and the warm weather to thaw them out—only to be horrified by shifting ice that damaged the ship’s frame, finally sinking her.
To survive, Shackleton mounted three lifeboats to traverse 800 miles of open sea to reach help on South Georgia Island—then return to the makeshift camp to rescue all 27 men who suffered frigid conditions, hunger, chaotic seas, and mental distress. This journey is one of the greatest examples of leadership, grit, and epic survival.
In order not to succumb to the current economic and global undertones, leaders must:
Project leaders have always been confronted with the likelihood of project failure—yet they have developed a track record of delivering results. Project leaders are adept at converting strategies into clear tactics, ensuring team and stakeholder alignment, and executing projects to achieve the goals. At the core of the project leader’s success are the character attributes of authenticity, trust, resilience, focus, and courage.
What else can you do to support your teams and move forward during this year’s challenges?
Building Team Synergy and Resilience
Human Aspects of PM,
Categories: Agile, Benefits Realization, Best Practices, Career Help, Change Management, Complexity, digital transformation, Facilitation, Human Aspects of PM, Human Resources, Innovation, Leadership, Lessons Learned, Mentoring, PMOs, Portfolio Management, Program Management, Roundtable, Stakeholder, Strategy, Talent Management, Teams
By Peter Tarhanidis, PhD
As the pandemic stretches on, work-from-home programs continue to keep teams working virtually. During this time, we have performed courageously to deliver our strategic and business outcomes. Here I will share a select review of advice from industry experts as they explore how to build a post-pandemic response strategy.
According to McKinsey (2022), organizations have pivoted to deliver sustainable and inclusive growth toward building a better world. And Harvard Business Review (2020) notes that all types of companies have navigated the pandemic by pivoting their business models in the short term to survive—becoming more resilient in the long term.
Yet not all pivots generated an improved business outcome. Three trends in particular can help ensure a successful pivot:
PWC’s Global Crisis Survey identified three key lessons that businesses can adopt for long-term resilience:
An opportunity, therefore, exists to consider how to prepare your team’s competence in driving synergy and resilience in order to lead post-pandemic growth strategies—and simultaneously pivot from those same strategies.
Here is a shortlist of what leaders can do to prepare for a post-pandemic recovery and support an organization:
In the end, the teams that are ready to execute and can pivot as necessary will be ready for the post-pandemic competitive environment.
Let me know if you have uncovered additional successful strategies—or any pitfalls to avoid—in building team synergy and resilience.