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The core techniques of project management need to be developed in everyone

economy for organizations’ talent strategies. Our research has found that a lack of change management skills is the top reason for project failure, identified by 45%. We looked at firms across the US, Europe and Asia-Pacific and found that 95% of project-based workers are neither certified, nor even called project managers, even though their roles involve managing and delivering projects. You will find these professionals all over organizations today. It is the sales operations director leading a big change in go-to-market strategy, or the change management consultant in HR leading a large-scale reshaping of the firm’s performance management process. Those project-based professionals may have no interest in pursuing a career in project management, but they need project management techniques to succeed. The Project Management Institute (PMI) has warned that shortages in project management talent and skills could cost employers $208bn over the decade to 2027. This reflects the widespread view of project management as a niche technical discipline that really only matters for IT and technical work. This has not been helped by project managers who are too often focused on project orthodoxy, opaque terminology and rigid processes, rather than being delivery-focused and responsive to today’s requirements. Yet it is an increasingly unhelpful and outdated view of project management.

Getting work done

A better approach means stopping thinking about the challenges we face today in terms of ‘project management’. Instead, we have to reframe the question as being about how we get work done most effectively. It also means stopping thinking about project management as a technical discipline, and recognizing it instead as being a combination of skills and disciplines that are needed to get work done today. This shift has four major components.



Alignment and executing on strategy means that the strategy has to be rooted deeply in the organization and understood by all. The business’s aims – its purpose – and the fundamental economics of the organization need to be grasped by everyone, because prioritizing work and eliminating ‘noise’ is an ongoing challenge for us all. Our 2019 survey and report, Emerging Trends in Project-Based Work, found that the biggest challenge in this area, identified by 86%, is selecting the right work to be done – and eliminating work that should not be continued, or even started. Getting this right is impossible without a genuine understanding of the strategy.

Dialogue Q4 2019

So is identifying opportunities for innovation, growth and value creation – the second biggest challenge, highlighted by 79%. Most leaders need to spend more time on building this understanding in their organizations. It is simply not enough for leaders to present the strategy once a year and hope that is an adequate anchor. Forcing change through is unsustainable, so leaders need to bring people with them on the strategy. The critical question is: do leaders and managers often talk to the organization about the underlying purpose and economics of the company, and why it is important?



Getting work done demands action in three areas: process expertise, workflow management and innovation. The most urgent area of focus is managing multiple priorities and interrelated workstreams, identified as a challenge by 83% in our research. Doing this effectively demands that the core disciplines of project management be developed in professionals in all parts of organizations, not just IT or digital teams. The core techniques of project management – defining the aim and scope of a project, preventing scope creep over time, managing budgets against cost inflation, staying on course – are relevant to all. Project management is a core muscle to be developed in everyone. That is increasingly being recognized by major organizations. We are currently working in partnership with BP in Azerbaijan under their social investment programme, for example, to develop both strategic leadership skills and the core project management skills of the local workforce: the skill-sets are closely interrelated, and success depends on having both in place across different management levels throughout the organization. Ask: do leaders of project execution deploy work approaches, including design thinking, to identify opportunities for innovation and problem-solving?



In our study, the most urgent area of focus for improving how we manage people today is creating the conditions for leading and managing a team in an environment of ambiguity and uncertainty – a challenge identified by 80%. A similar number, 79%, see the challenge of leading through change or transformation as a priority, and the two challenges go hand in hand. With a 70:30 focus on changing the

Profile for LID Business Media

Dialogue Q4 2019  

Today’s global economy is shaped more by businesses than by nation states: by the goods and services they provide, the networks and supply c...

Dialogue Q4 2019  

Today’s global economy is shaped more by businesses than by nation states: by the goods and services they provide, the networks and supply c...