A Deep Dive Into the Future of Project Management
It’s not news that the discipline of project management has experienced immense growth in recent times. What’s notable is that this progress is expected to continue. Through 2027, the project-based work labor force is expected to grow by 33 percent, representing nearly 22 million new jobs in the span of a decade¹.
As we continually seek out and reflect on these significant industry developments, we are excited to share some expert observations on how the discipline has evolved and what today’s project managers should be considering to achieve continued success in the future.
Tim Wasserman, Strategy Execution’s Chief Learning Officer, recently reviewed the Project Management Institute (PMI®)’s 2018 Pulse of the Profession report on disruption and discussed what it means to be a truly adaptive project leader in today’s changing business landscape.
To read Wasserman’s full article on putting PMI®’s Pulse of the Profession into action, click here.
We’ve also aggregated the key takeaways from the PMI® report, The Project Manager of the Future: Developing Digital-Age Project Management Skills to Thrive In Disruptive Times, and put together the following insights to benefit project managers everywhere:
What are some challenges project managers and organizations can expect to face related to successful execution of project-based work?
The discipline and practice of project management has been built on the premise that most problems are known, can be broken down into small parts that are controllable, and then organized in a particular way to drive us to a predictable outcome. While complicated, the context is ultimately knowable and manageable. But as we face increased volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity every day, the need for additional capabilities has accelerated. More precisely, the following factors will continue to influence the project management landscape:
- Continuous disruption is the new normal and as there are more questions and uncertainty in project work it can be uncomfortable to think about the unknown. Organizations that do not recognize that disruption is prevalent and are slow to adapt and equip their project leaders with the right skills are the ones more likely to be passed by the competition.
- Project-based roles are changing. According to a 2017 report by the Institute for the Future and Dell Technologies, 85% of the jobs that will be available in 2030 haven’t even been invented yet. Adaptive leaders are tasked with adjusting their approaches constantly as they simultaneously navigate the intersection of strategy, work, and people. This ability to adapt will continue to grow in demand as job roles and organizations evolve.
- As project-based work becomes more collaborative and crosses traditional silos, nurturing the right organizational culture – one that requires greater communication and trust – will become paramount to success. Speaking on the behaviors that influence culture and collaboration, Henk van Huyssteen, a senior program manager for Deloitte Consulting, says, “These are habits that you have to instill and very much the right mindset that has to be brought to the table.”
What can organizations do to manage disruption?
To begin, it’s important that organizations recognize that disruption is inevitable rather than relying on tools and methodologies that may have worked in the past. This self-awareness helps us to not only identify our own skill gaps, but also to recognize there is not a single approach that leads to success in these disruptive times. Rather, what is required for success is the willingness to continually assess a situation, gather new insights, look for emerging patterns, recognize when a change of approach is needed, and smoothly transitioning to this approach.
- PMI® emphasizes that in the midst of disruption, organizations must focus on internal improvements —including making training and development a priority, embracing new tools, and nurturing culture change.
- The most forward-thinking organizations rely on the power of project leaders to capitalize on the opportunities that are created by technological disruption. Technology is a means for greater possibilities and adaptive leaders continuously look for ways to leverage these technological changes.
What are the necessary project leadership skills you need for changing and disruptive times?
While the need to develop technical skills and capabilities is still valid and necessary for project managers, these skills alone will fail to produce consistent results. Today’s disruptive times require a new mindset. This required leadership mindset is real, specific, and can be practiced and learned. The ability of the leader to assess the appropriate context, whether complicated or complex, and know when to deploy the appropriate skill sets and toolsets, is what we refer to as adaptive leadership.
- As the environment in which we execute work continues to change in unpredictable ways, mastering technical skills alone is no longer enough. Mark A. Langley, PMI®’s President and CEO, agrees: “The future of project management will require organizations and individuals alike to embrace a full spectrum of competencies and approaches, along with a wide range of titles and methodologies.” In tandem with this need for a more holistic skill set, it is the adaptive mindset that guides the ability to assess the operating context and deploy the correct skill sets depending on the situation.
- HR professionals in organizations hiring full time employees rated soft skills as the most needed new skills for organizations. A major part of adaptive leadership requires these types of skills, such as influence, communication, and networking.
The journey for today’s project managers is one that requires constant self-evaluation and reflection. As we head into an unknown future, the adaptive leader mindset will empower tomorrow’s project leaders to make better decisions for their teams and organizations.
For additional insights on how you can put PMI®’s report into action, click below:
¹PMI (2017). Project Management Job Growth and Talent Gap 2017–2027.
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