Sunil Prashara, President and CEO of Project Management Institute (PMI), describes the flexibility that organisations need in order to manage disruptive change.
Prior to recent events, the workplace was evolving incrementally with bursts of significant change. As a result of Covid-19, we have seen an accelerated transformation in the way we work. What has happened as a result of the pandemic is likely to have a long-lasting impact and we must think differently about the skillsets our workforce will need as businesses and industries continue to transform.
As a driver of change, the pandemic has forced more people to work remotely, but this won’t be the only difference we see. It’s important to step back and look at the bigger picture. The change that is required is far more than simply applying virtual technology to workplaces. We need to apply the best practices of project management to navigate that change successfully, have teams drive toward shared goals and deliver better outcomes.
With Covid-19, existing changes were accelerated and the need for organisational flexibility has increased. In turn, this has promoted cultural and managerial change, including the adoption of agile ways of working. These involve both flexible management processes to give organisations the ability to adapt and even transform their products and services.
Flexibility and adaptability can deliver cost savings, increased productivity, enhanced job satisfaction and, most important of all, the ability to thrive in a rapidly changing world. But the ability to change is not sufficient. It is how you change – and how quickly you can change – that matters. You must be flexible at pace, not just to be able to fail fast, but succeed more often and be sure that your course is the right one.
Now, more than ever, it is important to be gymnastic in a business setting. This means being nimble, proactive, innovative and agile in response to changes, whether they come from the market, a competitor or the economy. This type of flexibility is not easy to achieve. It takes a collective growth mindset and the ambition should not just be to adapt to a changed environment. It should be to rebuild something that is better than the original.
Projects drive change
For this type of transformational change to succeed, projects need to be at the heart of organisations. At PMI we talk about The Project Economy, in which strategic initiatives are carried out through a transformative series of projects. It is outcomes that matter in The Project Economy: delivering real value at the end of each initiative.
In this new work ecosystem, project managers will play a pivotal role in helping the world rebound from the damaging effects of the pandemic and move forward by adapting to the opportunities that technology brings. Project managers are today’s change makers. They are perfectly poised to take on these challenges and can turn ideas into reality.
Upskill project managers
Typically, we think about project management as an approach or discipline, but it can also be viewed as a business culture that supports organisational flexibility. For this reason, project management is a skillset that will be important over your entire lifespan.
As many teams continue to adapt to a virtual work environment, the need to develop power skills will continue to increase as well. These skills include collaborative leadership, empathy for the voice of the customer, an innovative mindset, emotional intelligence, and effective communication and persuasion skills.
While agile has its roots in IT, it has been adopted cross-functionally by various industries and business functions. It is particularly useful in situations where there are many unknowns or where project specs change frequently. This collaborative, incremental and iterative style of working is tailor-made for our fast-paced, ever-changing world. According to PMI research, nearly one in four projects completed over the past year deployed agile, and half of all project management offices expect to increase their use of agile over the next five years.
Define your way of working
The world of agile is complex and full of choices. There are numerous techniques and frameworks that can be used depending on resources and requirements, allowing the way projects are managed to be shaped according to circumstance. One way PMI is helping both organisations and individuals navigate this is through Disciplined Agile (DA).
Disciplined Agile is a comprehensive agile process tailoring toolkit, which guides individuals, teams and organisations to define their optimal way of working. The approach recognises that every organisation is different and, within each organisation, teams are likely to vary their approach based on the nature of their work. Personalised guidance helps teams understand their options and choose the best approach for the project at hand, while also providing the opportunity to continuously increase productivity.
With our recently launched Basics of Disciplined Agile online course, students learn to navigate hundreds of agile techniques so they can tailor the best approach for each project. Additionally, the soon-to-be-launched online course, Organizational Transformation I, ensures professionals have the awareness and skills to respond to change and support their organisation’s transformation efforts. Through these courses, PMI is furthering its commitment to keeping change makers on the leading edge as the profession evolves.
At PMI, we are committed to helping more than three million professionals around the world navigate and thrive in our dynamic market environment by providing professionals with the tools and resources they need to reach their full potential.
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Sunil Prashara, President and CEO of Project Management Institute