Author: Cindy Anderson, Vice President of Brand Management, the Project Management Institute
14 Feb 2020
An organisational paradigm shift is occurring, similar in scale to that of the Industrial Revolution. The scope and speed of technological change, such as robotics, artificial intelligence and big data, has forced companies to rethink how they operate. This rethinking applies not only to the nature of work, but also to how it creates and delivers value to all stakeholders, from employees to customers, shareholders and society in general.
At the Project Management Institute (PMI), we have identified a new way for businesses to function in this shifting corporate environment, called ‘the project economy’. In the project economy, people are equipped with all the skills and capabilities they need to turn ideas into realities, no matter what kind of task they’re working on. Employees are then grouped according to the knowledge and experience they can bring to a task. This makes the completion of projects even easier, as all team members are able to pitch in.
Leaders and managers can no longer think of projects as disparate features of a wider strategy
All organisations should strive to be nimble enough to take advantage of opportunities in the marketplace and pivot quickly when change is needed. They must listen to their customers and incorporate their findings into upcoming products, services and offerings.
The project economy is designed to optimise workflows. Yet, too few businesses, organisations and governments recognise the value of this approach – or if they do, they’re not adapting quickly enough. Research conducted by PMI’s Brightline Initiative has shown that $1m (€908,020) is wasted every 20 seconds because organisations don’t connect their strategies with the capabilities needed to turn those ideas into realities.
To change this, businesses must recognise that strategy is delivered through carefully designed projects. Leaders and managers can no longer think of projects as disparate features of a wider strategy. There must be recognition that the entire organisation operates as a portfolio of projects that brings value to stakeholders. Leaders can then staff projects with people who have the right skills to get the job done.
Professor and author Roger Martin, one of the world’s leading management thinkers, has named this strategy ‘projectisation’. Meanwhile, Antonio-Nieto Rodriguez, whose CV includes executive roles at GlaxoSmithKline, BNP Paribas Fortis and PricewaterhouseCoopers, describes it as the ‘project revolution’ in his book of the same name. Despite the project economy being endorsed by industry experts, money continues to be wasted on tasks that don’t adopt this approach.
We’re coming to realise that the disruptive impact of new technology has rendered traditional practices unfit for purpose. Hierarchies that were once effective can now be fatal to an operation. As younger generations enter the workforce, knowledge workers are less interested in lifetime employment, preferring to pursue fulfilling assignments that allow them to build skills and gather experiences they can take anywhere.
Businesses stand to benefit from welcoming this demographic change. By grouping employees by their skills and assigning them to the appropriate projects, managers will see their organisation streamlined. They will also benefit from greater flexibility in terms of how they hire, train, assign and retain a high-performing workforce.
It is our belief that the project economy will expand, becoming the way that all work gets done. It’s efficient, agile and designed to integrate customer insight at every opportunity.