Project revolution will be led by people, not robots

February 11, 2019

surge importance of projects in the global economy: in the new economic and development global landscape, projects are becoming the essential model to create value and sustainable development. In Germany, for example, approximately 40 percent of the turnover and the activities of German companies are performed as projects. This is only going to increase. In fact, similar percentages can be found in most Western economies. The figures are even higher in India, China, and some of the other leading Asian economies, where project-based work has been an essential element in their economic emergence. The so-called gig economy is driven by projects.

senior leaders will need to dedicate more time to project work: presently, executives, senior leaders and managers dedicate approximately 10 to 15 percent of their time to project work, mostly participating at steering committees. My prediction is that by 2025, regardless of the industry or sector, senior leaders and managers will spend at least 60 percent of their time selecting, prioritizing, and driving the execution of projects. We will all become project leaders, despite never having been trained to be so.

boards of directors will dedicate significantly more time to prioritize, select, and oversee strategic projects: boards play a critical role in value creation and long-term organizational success. In the present turbulent times, providing direction and prioritizing initiatives have become essential competencies for boards. When organizations execute too many strategic projects without clear prioritization from the top, they will be spread too thinly—teams will fight for resources, commitments to contribute to certain projects will not be respected, and most projects will fail to meet their initial cost, time and benefit estimates. Conversely, ignorance of the accountability duties by directors in these matters is a weakness in corporate governance that can have devastating consequences for corporations, destroying a vast amount of value and often push corporations to the verge of collapse.

increase investment in developing project implementation capabilities: with the current speed of change, products become commodities quickly, so companies will be looking for new products and new sources of revenue much faster than in the past. That means many new projects and new opportunities for professional project managers.

Companies will be looking for people who can bring growth, change, create value, bring discipline, work across the business, and develop high-performing teams. Large part of training and development budgets will be invested in training employees and management on developing those skills. Understanding how projects can contribute to the bottom line or the business strategy and benefits.

focus on benefits and impact: technology and global competition are speeding up the way companies and products are developed. Product launches, successes, and failures are coming faster than ever. The negative side of this is that companies do not have the patience or ability to wait. In the past, a project might take three years to be completed, and about the fifth year, it would deliver its strategic benefit. That is not possible any longer. We must deliver faster, and our project approach has to evolve, especially focusing on benefits, and finding ways to obtain them quickly. This is a significant shift in the way we run projects today in our organizations.

The good news of this surge in importance of projects is that project-based work is human-centric. Projects cannot be carried out by machines; they need humans to do the work. Humans must gather together around the purpose of the project, dividing up the work, bonding, interacting, and addressing emotional aspects to create a high-performing team. Technology will of course play a role in projects. It will improve the selection of projects and increase the chances of success. But technology will be an enabler and not the goal. Project revolution will be led by people like you.