New technologies, shifting business needs, flexible delivery approaches and the move to The Project Economy—all of these things are changing the profession of project management. And that shift is only going to accelerate in 2020.
In a recent episode of Projectified with hosts Tegan Jones and Stephen Maye, project and program management leaders shared their thoughts on emerging trends in the world of projects. Here are some edited highlights:
“I believe the future’s really bright for project and program managers,” said Narasimha Acharya, assistant director in the client technology practice at Ernst & Young in Atlanta. “But the role, the knowledge, the experience that we need to be successful is, of course, changing. And it will continue to change.”
But Palladino said we shouldn’t get overwhelmed by the pace of change and what it may or may not bring down the road. Instead, we should practice curiosity in the here and now. And an agile mindset helps, starting with the question: “What’s that one little thing we can do to improve what we’re doing?”
“And if we can build that [curiosity] into our lives, we build that into the way that we work, we incrementally keep looking for different opportunities to improve and discover new ideas and different ways of working,” Palladino said.
Developing a habit of curiosity can help you prepare for what’s ahead. And as things change, project managers will need new skills, including how they use data, said Fernando Antonio Oliveira, the E2 program director for Embraer in São José dos Campos, Brazil.
“We see a lot of change in the way we treat data, the way we collect data, the way we understand how the project or program is going,” Oliveira said. This data-centric approach is driven in large part by artificial intelligence (AI) and other tools that can help project managers better anticipate and prevent risks, rather than reacting to them after they happen, he added.
Kaustuv Bagchi, head of India operations for oil and gas offshore projects for LT Hydrocarbon Engineering in Mumbai, India, said he hopes disruptive technology like AI will help new project managers be more efficient and allow them to focus on different skills.
“Earlier the focus was on knowledge and experience; now…we have technology to support project management to an extent that experience is getting digitized, so the focus is going to be moving from knowledge to application of technology, and application of knowledge, and constant innovation.”
As a new generation enters the workplace, new approaches and ways of thinking are changing and challenging traditional project management approaches as well.
Olivier Schmitt, CEO of The Project Group France SAS in Lyon, said he sees organizations struggling to integrate those new points of view.
“The conflict at the moment in [many] organizations is it’s moving very fast at the delivery level, and it’s still very conservative at the top management level, which makes a real problem in decision-making.”
No doubt, it’s going to be a vastly different world for the next generation of project leaders. In addition to becoming comfortable with new technologies, we also will need to be OK with ambiguity, Palladino said.
“Life isn’t crisp and clear, the future’s not crisp and clear,” he said. “We’re going to have to deal with those ambiguities, and we have to figure out a way to change our thinking that it’s not just about finding the right answer, it’s finding an answer, and that’s okay, let’s develop it. Let’s further explore it and improve it and continually enhance it.”
Handling ambiguity is clearly a needed skill—and Maye noted that Deloitte recently found that leading through complexity and ambiguity was the top skill needed for today’s (and tomorrow’s) leaders.
What do you think?
One misconception many new project managers bring to their role is a belief (or is it a hope?) that a particular methodology, the latest tool or a popular template will bring them success in their work.
It’s understandable, but it’s a misguided, often doomed way of thinking about your very critical role.
Focusing exclusively on processes or systems is dangerous because it could mean other equally important factors in your project’s success are being relegated to bit players, if not swept off the stage entirely.
The fact is, there will always be plenty of rules and requirements that tell you what to do. The best project managers always allow room for asking why and how.
That’s not to suggest project management fundamentals aren’t important. But once you’ve moved out of the classroom and into the world of personalities and problems, projects quickly become more than budgeting and scheduling.
Methodologies don’t complete projects, teams and individuals do. That’s where leadership skills are so important, and yet they still get labeled as soft—as if the ability to resolve conflicts, influence team members and convince stakeholders isn’t hard!
This kind of leadership requires credibility—along with intuition and decision-making, instinct and risk-taking. These qualities might be considered intangibles, but they can and quite often do make the difference between a project that bogs down as soon as it encounters its first crisis, and a project that nimbly navigates those choppy waters until is delivers as promised.
So that’s why you should make your credibility a priority — and manage it as your most important project of all!
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?