Project management has grown up in a world of command and control. Up until the 20th century, project managers drove their projects. Directed the team and were often autocratic in approach. But the changing face of project management is bringing a new set of skills and a range of challenges. Engaging and involving the project team and stakeholders are essential in delivering the most effective projects.
The change of approach that drives the changing face of project management
Projects in the 70s-80s had a clear vision of a timeboxed activity with a defined budget and a set of objectives. A command and control structure lends itself to deliver the well-defined objective. But by necessity, a significant proportion of project effort was spent in confirming requirements and defining goals. This approach is still appropriate in some sectors and for some projects. But many IT, business change and new development projects have adopted an incremental approach. Even the well-established protocol of Agile approaches will see some changes over the coming years. The trend in project methods and approach seems to suggest that project managers will be more outward-facing and less involved in driving team performance and controlling detailed tasks.
The rise of Emotional Intelligence
The trend for project management has been to move away from functional control and technical reliance on estimating, planning and absolute definition. The focus is more on dealing with people and managing situations. This situation means a need for improvement in the emotional intelligence of project managers. Increasingly project managers must be more self-aware and able to read the feelings of their team and key stakeholders. Empathy and dealing with difficult issues are critical to the smooth delivery of projects. Being able to motivate those connected to your project is extremely important to maintaining progress.
Not only are project managers required to show high emotional intelligence, but they are also expected to improve the EQ of their teams.
Greater awareness of business goals
Project managers need to have a better understanding of business process and the business goals. Although projects are still judge by time, cost and quality, a key driver needs to be project success in business terms. Often in the fast-changing world of business the criteria for success can change during the life of a project. Having a project missing a deadline but fulfilling all the business success criteria is more desirable than the project completing on time and missing a significant portion of its objective. Project managers should ideally have a general business knowledge, as well as specific knowledge of their own organisation.
Projects need to be able to adapt to changing needs. Business savvy project managers can work more easily with their stakeholders to shape the changes for business benefit.
Automation, AI and adaptive data analysis
Although project managers are moving away from functional recording and control of projects the void can be filled with automated process. The best project managers should be able to use AI and automation to assist them in controlling projects, while allowing them extra time to focus on people based challenges. Automation will take more of a role in planning and recording progress. AI can be extremely useful in helping to identify and manage risk in projects. Depending on the nature of the project data analytics can help tune the direction of a project and improve the likely outcome.
AI and Automation are a threat to old forms of project management. But while they can replace many of the functions performed in projects. They can enhance project manager roles, giving them more opportunity to get involved in shaping success and realising the goals and ambitions of organisations.
Project management is changing, there is no doubt about that. It is difficult to gauge the pace of change. But the changes that are coming seem more likely to enhance and increase the project managers role.