What to Expect: Anticipating and Adapting to Dynamic Economic Trends
project management office,
critical success factors,
Managing for Stakeholders,
Categories: Project Leadership, Continuous Learning, Collaboration, Servant Leadership, Priorities, Value, Cultural Awareness, project management office, Project Failure, Best Practices, Project Delivery, Metrics, project management, critical success factors, Managing for Stakeholders, execution, Project Success, Culture, Project Dependencies, Business Transformation, Transformation, Disruption, Design Thinking, Project Management, Cost, Risk, Career Development, Stakeholder, Change Management, Leadership, Program Management, Benefits Realization, Complexity, Consulting, Decision Making, Business Analysis, IT Strategy, Business Case
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:
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:
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:
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?
By Lenka Pincot
When crisis strikes, the first thing we’d like to do is quickly re-prioritize, re-assign resources to the activities that provide the most value under the current circumstances and materialize the benefits as soon as possible. While this may be a distant dream for some organizations, it is far more realistic for those that have gone through at least the early stages of agile transformation.
Why is that?
In the 13th Annual State of Agile Report, the ability to manage changing priorities was listed as the top reported benefit of adoption of agile practices. It’s followed by project visibility. These two factors go hand-in-hand.
Companies with multiple project portfolios that have adopted large-scale agile practices must find a way to align priorities across compact cross-functional agile teams. This may be done in various ways, whether we call it Program Increment Planning (SAFe framework), Scrum of Scrums or Quarterly Business Reviews (inspired by Google and Netflix, and popularized by ING). These alignment activities all require agile teams to define their initiatives so that benefits are traceable and achievable on a short-term timeline. As such, it doesn’t leave much space for building dazzling business cases, right? At this point, the project visibility to all parties involved in prioritization and planning is crucial.
The OKR Method
Because agile teams maintain a certain level of dependencies among one another (e.g., shared technological platforms), their initiatives must be prioritized with this in mind. There is certainly more than one way to get these project teams on the same page and across the finish line together. I am preferential to the OKRs method, which involves translating business objectives (O) into actionable, quarterly-based commitments, or key results (KR). While objectives should describe what you want to achieve in a 12-to-18-month period, quarterly, measurable key results explain how you get there and are regularly redefined.
Next, ask agile teams to provide you with a clear link that shows how their initiatives support the quarterly key results. As a result, activities are exposed to an open discussion to determine how they support project goals and if they are enough to help project teams achieve what they need to achieve.
When strategic priorities change (e.g., a company needs to strengthen its online operations during the COVID-19 crisis, when a month ago its main revenues came from physical customer interactions), you assign higher priority to the respective OKRs and move the linked initiatives to the top of the list. But this only works if you’ve achieved a high level of transparency and trust across the organization. And agile teams provide smaller and more measurable product increments, so that their business value is easy to understand.
Because agile teams are stable, they have resources to execute the top priorities instantly. The agile mode of delivery is iterative, so there is no need for detailed analysis prior to the actual implementation. Teams are actionable right after re-prioritization occurs.
I’ve been lucky enough to experience such high agile organizational maturity firsthand. It is fair to say that achieving the organizational capabilities described above takes many years and a lot of persistence, coaching and awareness-building. But once you’ve moved to such a stage, you know that the agile approach will have your back when you need it most.
How has agile helped your team manage changing priorities?
The Secrets to Business Transformation Success
In the world of business transformation, there is usually a lot of enthusiasm surrounding the start of the transformation among the team.
But it quickly gets crazy and stressful thanks to tenders for third parties, recruitment, preparation for executives’ meetings, changes, wish lists, vague strategies and aggressive key performance indicator promises already made to the board.
Typically, the transformation team has a list of to-dos and we go running around building the empire around achieving them—and off goes the train.
Some of the pitfalls that transformation teams fall into are:
Assume success: Business transformation is usually about a list of changes we make to the business—whether with systems, people, processes, strategy, or all of these. We build the portfolio, write the briefs for our third parties, start the projects and setup the meetings and steering committees.
We plan our work with success in mind. But what if that doesn’t happen?
When we don’t account for failure it means we don’t really have the recovery mechanism in place both at the human and team level and at the tactical level.
That leads us to the second pitfall.
Inability to stop and reflect: In transformation, there is a lot at stake. That means a lot can go wrong quickly—and the trust that the transformation team once had can be put to the test.
Because there are a lot of moving parts—and what you knew at a point in time may not be as valid or as accurate as it is at a later point—time to reflect and adjust course is essential.
At the end of the day, these teams work for their customers and when the customer needs change, so should the direction and the approach that the team takes.
Can’t or won’t say “no”: In successful and strong transformation teams, the ability to say “no” is crucial. That does not mean rejecting business requests, but rather working to prioritize and justify why things can or can’t be done.
Not understanding the capacity available can put the transformation team at risk. Senior managers and executives often look for a sounding board and an independent review of what might be possible. Don’t be shy to speak your mind and seek to understand and learn.
Transformation is about saying “no” as much as it is about saying, “Yes, we can.” It’s important to keep the organization honest to its true ability to implement change and work together with your customers to create something that works.
And finally, during a transformation it’s important to stay humble and always seek to learn. Don’t let your ego stand between you and a successful business transformation. But that’s another topic for another day.