PMI’s Global Megatrends 2022 report highlights six major themes – Digital Disruption, Climate Crisis, Demographic Shifts, Economic Shifts, Labor Shortages and Civil, Civic and Equality Movements. Of course, mega trends are always a simplification and they do not all affect everyone, every company or industry on the planet to the same extent. But they are very important CONTEXTUAL elements. They present opportunities to CONTRIBUTE, as project managers, to some of the world’s most pressing challenge, but also because understanding them, having a point of view, helps us all be better and more effective at dealing with MOST of the principles that PMI refers to, in PMBOK® Guide – Seventh Edition.
Think of risks, teams, stakeholders, system thinking, adaptability, complexity, change of course, and ultimately leadership. Obviously, they also represent business opportunities, and most companies have an enormous focus on sustainability, on innovation, on the deployment of technologies – and we are now seeing the rush to AI for instance, on addressing the shifting, complex and sometimes even contradictory expectations of consumers, customers, employees and all stakeholders. And ultimately, on the need for upskilling, and reskilling their workforce.
What does this future look like for workforce?
- We’ll see organizations rethinking not just the nature of work, but the way it gets done, with workers hired, grouped, and regrouped based on the knowledge and experience they bring to specific projects.
- We see a future in which talent have all the skills and capabilities they need to turn ideas into reality, regardless of the type of project they’re working on.
- It’s a future in which organizations deliver value to stakeholders primarily through the successful completion of projects.
- And it’s a future in which projects drive wide-scale value, not just financially, but socially.
Project management is a hard discipline, and as such deserves a lot of admiration. When it comes to digital transformation, like for any projects there is never a shortage of challenges for project managers to overcome.
In digital, transformation has become the new norm and even a philosophy, and as much as we invest in learning and technology adoption, it is hard to predict all the impact to come, while at the same time we have pressure to develop solutions that can last and will produce long term value. Look at the case of generative AI: Salesforce recently found that 67% of senior IT leaders are pushing to adopt generative AI across their businesses in the next 18 months, with one-third naming it their top priority. At the same time, many of these senior IT leaders have concerns about what could happen. Among other reservations, the report found that 59% believe generative AI outputs are inaccurate and 79% have security concerns. You see, all these factors make it challenging to set the strategy. This basically forces us to plan in much shorter iterations and to constantly adapt. Consequently, it is even more important to have a North Star and to communicate it, to have something that guides and unify teams, the purpose of our efforts.
There is a stunning rise of generative AI described in the Digital Transformation Playbook published by PMI. ChatGPT is the fastest-growing consumer app in history, hitting 100 million users in only two months! In this Playbook, you can find a checklist of questions for leaders to consider:
- Do you have the people and patience to build an accurate inventory of all current and past projects, including the latest status updates?
- Do you have the resources to gather, clean, and structure your organizational data?
- How ready is your organization and its people to abandon old management habits, such as monthly progress reports, that will be rendered redundant by AI?
- Are you prepared to invest in training staff on how to use the new technology?
- Are your senior leaders prepared to hand over the reins on the high-stakes decision to implement AI applications?
- Does your organization have a tolerance for mistakes and setbacks to allow time for the organization and technology to grow together?
- Does your organization have an executive sponsor with both the expertise and credibility to lead an AI transformation?
- Does your organization have the patience for transformation that can take years to fully accomplish?
Today AI is automating so many routine parts of work, including those tasks like scheduling and planning that were at the forefront of the project management profession.
In addition to PMI’s research, PwC has also detailed the path of AI in project management.
- To date, a lot of the focus has been on the automation – requiring a certain degree of standardization – of tasks that are already carried out. The trend towards integration and automation will continue in the next couple of years, mainly focusing on more effective project management processes.
- AI chatbots serving as project assistants are considered to be the second phase in the evolution of AI in project management. Bots will take a role in human-computer interaction, mainly based on speech or text recognition.
- The third phase of AI in project management introduces machine learning into project management practice. Machine learning enables predictive analytics and can provide advice to the project manager, for example on how to set up and steer the project given certain parameters, and/or how to react to certain issues and risks to reach the best possible outcome based on what worked in past projects.
- Autonomous project management. Similar to self-driving cars, autonomous project management would only need limited input and intervention from a human project manager.
The 14th edition of the yearly Pulse of the Profession report talks about Power Skills and explains how can project managers stand out by applying these skills in their daily work. The most important power skills identified by the research are communication, problem-solving, collaborative leadership, and strategic thinking.
Of all of the skills that PMPs typically possess, Power Skills are in the shortest supply.
Being truly great in each of these areas is an opportunity to differentiate – to really stand out as a leader.
Firstly, while communication has always been recognized as a core skill, today it includes:
- speaking the language of the organization, putting the work in strategic context,
- tuning your messages to very specific stakeholder audiences and using new technologies like ChatGPT to make information more impactful and consumable.
Second, problem solving, specifically problem solving as a team is even more important in the ever-changing environment, we all operate in today. The reason for that is that often today, we are handed “Problems” rather than “Projects”.
Collaboration to refine our understanding of the problem bonds and focuses a team, creating solutions together dramatically increases ownership and the net result is extreme alignment that cannot be achieved through top-down leadership.
Group problem solving also lies at the core of collaborative leadership. Coupled with allowing topic experts to visibly lead in their areas is helping them grow their careers and competency.
And finally, strategic thinking is key. It requires a deep understanding of the strategy – especially the “intent” behind it, to see the organization as a system and how your initiative will improve that system in a measurable way, and lead to understanding how everything you are measuring ladders up to specific organizational objectives.
Power Skills should be deployed literally every day. Project managers need to deal with the external environment of their project, understand expectations of the stakeholders, see the big picture in which the project plays its role, and at the same time, they need to make sure that the value of their project is seen and understood, especially when it comes to prioritization and resource allocation. To achieve such understanding, project managers need to do: networking, sharing project’s story, co-creating with multiple stakeholders and reinforcing their sense of ownership of project success.
On the other side, internally with the team, project managers need to lead by sharing the project’s vision, by role modeling, coaching and mentoring the team members to create the conditions for their own growth and the full utilization of their talents.
- Brightline, PMI, The Digital Transformation Playbook, 2023
Agnieszka is an energetic multi-lingual trainer, coach and consultant with over 20 years’ international experience in the project management profession. She is a very creative trainer and consultant who uses innovative skills to support clients in designing and delivering leadership skills courses. She has a long experience in working with clients from private, public and academic organisations. Her strong interpersonal and communication skills allow her to build very good relations with clients across all levels and in different languages due to her fluency in English, Spanish, Italian, Polish and conversational German and Russian. Agnieszka has delivered successful programmes across Europe, USA, Latin America and Australia. She is Business Coach (ACC ICF) and author of creative program “Leader TANGO – strengths for Life” www.leadertango.com