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The project revolution is here. Can you adapt? The operating environment has changed: project work is more pervasive and important than ever. Michael Canning questions whether leaders are adapting fast enough

C L A S H O F C U LT U R E The new era of project work runs counter to the instinct of traditional leaders for linear strategy, to drive variability out and direct people. These mechanistic approaches are doomed to fail in the upcoming epoch, which demands dynamic strategies, creative solutions and inspired teams.

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Disruptive technologies, new forms of competition, and more intense globalization, are making every industry more volatile and complex. This dynamism makes the future less predictable and speed more important. “The dominant idea behind strategy – establishing a sustainable source of competitive advantage – is becoming irrelevant,” says strategy guru Rita McGrath. Organizations need a new playbook to seize opportunities faster and develop their ability to adapt in real-time. This requires faster cycles between strategy formulation and execution, while learning how to stay closer to customers, innovate more rapidly, and adapt products and services. As leadership expert Peter Bregman said in his recent Harvard Business Review article, in today’s operating environment “your organization’s biggest strategic challenge isn’t strategic thinking, it’s strategic acting”. A less discussed consequence of this new operating environment is the exponential growth in project-based work. About a fifth of the world’s economic activity a year – $12 trillion – is now organized as projects. Over the next decade, organizations are expected to experience a 68% increase in projectbased work. As Duke CE educator and Dialogue author Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez notes: “This is one disruption affecting our world that media and academia have missed.” Most of today’s organizations were designed to accommodate activity within functional or geographic silos. And coordination among people, budgets and work systems was accomplished as required (see graphic, right). Project work was the notable exception, not the standard. Today, the volume and strategic importance of project work is on the rise, and being on – or leading –

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2017 Duke Corporate Education and TwentyEighty Strategy Execution

one or more projects is the norm. Chief executives recognize that projects are the lifeline of strategy. In 2017, corporate heads classified more than half of their projects as strategic initiatives. This makes sense when you are leading in a world described by one auto industry executive as “two speed”. In his view, leaders need to “stabilize the current business and

keep our promises to Wall Street, while completely transforming ourselves”. In this environment, it’s not surprising that a great deal of day-to-day baseline work still occurs in functions, while a growing portion of the important work related to executing strategy and transforming organizations takes the shape of projects. As Nieto-Rodriguez points out: “These projects cut across silos, set people to

Dialogue Q4 2017

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Dialogue Q4 2017  
Dialogue Q4 2017