Our Projectified with PMI podcast continues to feature dynamic guests sharing fresh perspectives on the future of project management. Earlier this month, host Stephen W. Maye chatted with Dana Brownlee, a strategy consultant and former project manager, about "Millennials in the Workforce."
The Census Bureau doesn't actually recognize "millennials" as an official demographic, and there aren't precise dates to define this group that follows Generation X. But a widely accepted definition is a person reaching young adulthood in the early 21st Century — anyone born between the early 1980s and early 2000s.
If you have siblings or children born on each side of that range — say in 1979 and 1983, or 2002 and 2006 — it wouldn't be surprising if they were more alike than different, so we should keep in mind that we're painting with a broad brush when discussing millennials or any generation.
But from a project management perspective, experienced project managers can certainly benefit from gaining a better understanding of the behaviors and mindsets of a group that is becoming a larger portion of the workforce each and every day.
Likewise, millennials — or Next-Gen PMs — need to understand how the older generation works as they seek to build credibility, influence and responsibility in their developing careers.
As Brownlee and Maye dove into the topic, one thing became clear: both Next-Gens and older generations have good things to offer and teach each other. But that isn't easily apparent if we operate in silos and stick to "our crowd" or comfort zone.
Awareness and relationship-building are critical, Brownlee says.
"It's hard to trust a person you don't like and it's hard to like a person you don't know, so it all starts with being very intentional about breaking up those cliques and creating opportunities for people who might come from different generations to actually get to know each other, and from there you can do some amazing things."
The responsibility to accommodate and adapt lies on both sides, and this episode shares several enlightening examples of how that can happen. Here are two:
For Next-Gen PMs, maybe the best place to focus on first is learning to take feedback, Brownlee says.
"One litmus test that I use for younger team members is not just how well do they do on a task, but how well do they take correction ... because if I get someone who takes feedback really well and I can tell they internalize it — they didn't get super-defensive — that's someone that I can work with much better."
On the other side, for experienced project managers and team members, it is important to be open to the new ways of thinking that technology-savvy Next-Gen PMs can bring to problem solving and collaboration. And that requires getting to know them as individuals, Brownlee says.
"One of the first things I'd advise project managers [is to] meet with people individually. When new people join my team I always meet with them individually and ask them all kinds of things. 'Hey, are you a morning or evening person?' ... 'If I were to reward you for doing a great job, what reward would be most meaningful for you?'"
The answers will vary dramatically, Brownlee promises. And that, ultimately, is the whole point. We can make some general observations about how millennials differ from older generations in the workforce, but we really can't begin to maximize their full potential unless we approach and get to know them as individuals.
This connection, of course, is a two-way street, and Next-Gen project management professionals must also recognize how their expectations should adjust and align with the organizations they are entering and the teams they are joining.
It all comes down to listening, doesn't it? And you can listen to all our Projectified episodes at pmi.org/podcast.
Have you checked out Projectified with PMI yet? This new podcast features lively, insightful conversations about emerging trends impacting your world — the world of project management. Projectified was created with one mission in mind: to inform, to inspire and to prepare you for success — today and tomorrow.
In our first eight episodes, we've explored a wide spectrum of timely topics, including artificial intelligence, digital transformation, and agile adoption. Many of these discussions — guided by our perceptive, engaging host Stephen Maye — provide an introduction to subjects that are complex or novel (and often both). We make sure to describe the landscape in general terms, to be sure, but we also dive deeper to make real-world connections that will resonate with project leaders and their teams. We outline the challenges, the possibilities and, most important, the opportunities.
In every episode, we strive to bring you new ways to approach your work, your career and your future. One of our most downloaded episodes to date has a mountain of down-to-earth, hard-earned advice from a rising project management star on how she developed her own leadership style. She shares insights on building relationships based on trust, asking awkward questions, learning from executive stakeholders, and ultimately believing in yourself.
One of my favorite episodes explores the often neglected role of creativity in project management and how to bring fresh thinking to process-oriented environments. Creativity, guest Scott Berkun says, isn't something mystical or fuzzy. It's about problem-solving. And every project needs that.
Among many helpful nuggets throughout the conversation, Berkun suggests keeping a journal.
"You need to invest in your relationship with yourself and what you think about your own ideas," he says. "Because if you're afraid of what might come out of your brain then the odds of you discovering something unusual is so much smaller because your inhibitions are really high. Reducing those inhibitions increases [when you write it down], which will increase what you'll have the confidence to pitch your co-worker or your boss. So I am convinced that one of the best tools you can have for thinking — forget creativity, just thinking — is to keep some kind of a journal."
And he says project managers should encourage their teams to embrace the same approach to enliven meetings, collaboration and brainstorming exercises.
"If you have a hard problem to solve, you want to allow people in the room to say things that don't quite make sense, or that are weird, or that are possibly embarrassing — because that's where you're gonna find an idea that might lead to a solution. If everyone in the meeting only says things that they are 100 percent confident make sense, you're not gonna find anything that interesting."
That's good stuff, and there's a lot more like it in every episode. These conversations deserve to be heard. They feature people who are passionate and knowledgeable. Listen for yourself and get Projectified!
You can find all Projectified episodes at pmi.org/podcast.
There was some very encouraging news in the Pulse of the Profession® report released earlier this year by Project Management Institute. Organizations around the globe significantly reduced the money they waste on their initiatives — by about 20 percent, or $25 million for every $1 billion invested in projects and programs in 2016, compared to the year before.
As a measure of success, the bottom-line is a decent place to start. It’s hard to argue against eliminating waste and redundancy. But cost is only one measure. As organizations focus on efficiency, they can’t lose sight of other definitions of success, from the traditional — scope and schedule — to the most important measure of all: Did a project achieve the desired benefits?
“Champion” organizations, as described by PMI, not only complete 80 percent or more of their projects on time and on budget, they meet the original goals and business intent as well. They have high benefits realization maturity compared to “underperformers” that have success rates of only 33 percent.
So how do champion organizations do it, and what can we learn from them? That’s the purpose of a new offering from PMI called Pulse at Work: Practitioner’s Guide. These guides will serve as companion pieces to the Pulse of the Profession research, bringing practical, applicable value to the data by connecting the findings to the day-to-day work of project management practitioners.
The most recent Pulse at Work guide identifies three key success factors exhibited in champion organizations: 1) project management practitioners are seen as strategic partners within the organization; 2) they connect strategy and action; and 3) they embrace agile approaches.
And here’s where the Pulse at Work gets to work, diving deeper into the success factors to ask project professionals how they achieve these often elusive aims.
For example, when it comes to connecting strategy to action, benefits realization management is essential. That means creating clear requirements and a vision for your projects, yes. But it also means that “project leaders must look beyond simply technical aspects of the project, and incorporate a more holistic viewpoint of the organization’s strategy and business goals.”
Karen Chovan, PMP, advises her peers to “take a look at the project scope that’s been defined and see where it aligns with other strategies within the organization. By asking a few questions during the initiation phase, you can find out whether the project will contribute to more than one strategy and include those things within the scope and requirements gathering for that project.”
On the subject of embracing agile, the Pulse at Work report notes the 2017 Pulse findings that 71 percent of organizations are now using agile approaches for their projects “sometimes or more often.” Significantly, 55 percent of champion organizations frequently use agile compared to 24 percent of underperformers.
“Using agile approaches, frameworks and thinking enabled us to do far more in the same timeframe and with the same money than was originally expected,” says Lawrence Cooper, PMI-ACP, CPM, PMP. “The importance of putting the customer first, doing only the most valuable things, demonstrating value often, and having highly motivated and engaged teams can’t be overstated. Instead of an IT project to procure and implement a learning management product, it became a business project where we implemented learning management, which has another level of business value.”
Exploring the trend further, one in five projects now incorporates a hybrid approach, applying elements of agile, waterfall or other methods, according to the report. In other words, there isn’t one formula for project success today. Increasingly, successful organizations and their PMOs are supporting blended or customized approaches that best meet each project’s particular needs.
Hearing from our peers about what is (and isn’t) working in the project trenches will always resonate more robustly than data alone. The Pulse at Work guides promise to serve a much-needed role in connecting the research to your real-world challenges. I’m looking forward to learning from and sharing this valuable work.
Let’s cut to the chase: you’ve made a good career choice.
The demand for project management practitioners is growing dramatically as organizations worldwide seek people who can implement strategic initiatives, drive change and deliver innovation. By 2027, employers will need more than 87 million individuals in project management-oriented roles, according to the recently released report Project Management Job Growth and Talent Gap 2017-2027, conducted for PMI by the Anderson Economic Group.
Among the catalysts for this global demand are attrition rates, including seasoned project management professionals retiring from the workforce, and a significant increase in demand for project talent in rapidly developing economies such as China and India.
And Uncle Sam wants you too: the report forecasts that the number of project management jobs in the United States alone will grow about 30 percent in the next 10 years, adding on average more than 210,000 new positions each year in project-oriented industries. (The largest percentage increase is expected in the health care sector at 17 percent.)
That’s an extraordinarily positive career outlook for skilled project professionals, particularly as we are inundated with other reports about how artificial intelligence and machine learning will shake up many industries over the same time span. Of course, AI initiatives also require project talent! And while some project management functions aren’t immune, the collaborative interactions and creative decision-making that define successful project teams won’t ever be easily automated.
Yes, the project management future’s bright — but not enough to wear shades and overlook the “talent” part of this report. Organizations, now and in the future, need practitioners with a mix of competencies that combine technical and leadership skills with strategic and business acumen.
What are you doing to improve your job outlook? Certification is a fundamental start, of course, and it’s a smart investment — salaries of practitioners with the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification are 20 percent higher on average than those without a PMP, according to the ninth and most recent edition of PMI’s biennial salary report.
But your development and learning shouldn’t stop after certification. More than ever, the pace of technological change requires project management professionals to continuously improve and expand their skill sets. That includes becoming conversant in emerging business trends, exploring agile approaches, finding mentors and joining peer networks who can support your journey.
The project management field is booming, and it’s creating a talent gap that will be growing even wider over the next ten years. That makes you valuable right now. Take steps to ensure it makes you even more valuable in the future.
Good project managers are almost always good communicators. Without direct authority over many of the people who impact their projects, they instead develop techniques to engage, persuade and motivate them, from team specialists to executive sponsors.
They don't just tell these people to do something and walk away; they don't say "pretty please," either. They engage and convince. They rally individuals around the reasons behind the particular "ask" or task. They clarify a project's goals, its desired benefits, the overall strategic mission.
In other words, they influence as much as they manage.
This is why I prefer project leader to project manager when referencing the role. Because influence is a huge part of effective leadership, whether it's coming from the C-suite or the project trenches.
Unfortunately, many of today's leaders have mistaken beliefs about what it means to be influential, according to Stacey Hanke, author of the new book Influence Redefined. Hanke says the prevailing influence paradigm is outdated and ineffective, and technological advances only make it more challenging to influence others.
The good news is that influence is a skill that can be developed by anyone through consistent feedback, practice and accountability, Hanke says. Though she often addresses executives in her book, her advice is just as valuable for project leaders and team members. As she notes at the outset: Influence does not come with a title.
With that in mind, here are some of Hanke's takeaways on influence:
1. Every interaction matters. Every presentation, conversation, impromptu meeting, email, text, or phone call is a representation of who you are and determines how others experience you. Each interaction is a representation of your personal brand and establishes your reputation. And your reputation drives your influence.
2. Video or audio record yourself speaking. This reveals the sometimes painful truth of what your team members and stakeholders see and hear when you speak. You have to know your strengths and weaknesses as a communicator in order to improve your ability to influence.
3. Focus outward rather than inward. Too often we focus on what we want rather than what others need. Find common ground. Go beyond what you want to accomplish and put your energy into how you might help them. Have a two-way interaction rather than a monologue.
4. Cut to the chase. Identify the most critical information someone will need to know in order to take the action you want them to take. Plan, prepare and practice before you ask. Don't waste their time. Cover the critical information first and follow up with supporting material.
5. Consistency is key. Inconsistency leads to a lack of trust. If people don’t trust you, they won’t act on your recommendations or follow your lead. Trust is where influence ultimately occurs.
What are your thoughts on the role of influence in managing projects? Have you struggled with it? Have you improved, and how?