Why Project Managers Must Evolve

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The rapid transformation of the project-management field is forcing project managers (PMs) to find new ways to bring value to their roles and organizations. To remain relevant and get ahead, PMs must let go of antiquated tactics and methodologies that can lead to project delays, cost overruns and frustration in today’s iterative and incremental development environment.

Here are five outmoded practices that you may want to scrap and replace with modern ones better suited to today’s project landscape:

Out: Adhering to a Single Methodology
In: Hybrid Frameworks

Traditional project management methodologies are proving to be too rigid for today’s environment, according to Robert Kelly, PMP, managing director of Kelly Project Solutions. Calling yourself an Agile shop is likewise outdated, he added. But what’s the better alternative?

“PMs must tailor their approach and use a combination of Lean Six Sigma, ITIL and some flavor of Agile or Waterfall to ensure that the deliverables are met and conform to the organization’s operational and business requirements,” Kelly said.

Out: Extreme End-to-End Planning
In: Short Term Planning

Failing to anticipate, prepare and plan way ahead has long been regarded as a formula for disaster, especially when it comes to managing the unique complexities of large, long-duration, high-budget projects. However, the drumbeat for continuous delivery, small pilots and short sprints has turned long-range planning into a futile exercise.

“A better approach is to hyper-focus on the next 10 days,” Kelly advised. “And to concentrate on no more than the next 30 to 45 days when planning ahead.”

Out: Zeroing In on Scope Management
In: Consultative Value Creation

Although driving the scope of work on a daily basis is still important, your career could fizzle out unless you develop the necessary skills to create value by taking a consultative approach to problem-solving.

Being able to express ideas in clear and non-technical terms, and define the business impact of solutions created through collaborative efforts with stakeholders, have become must-have competencies for project managers. In other words, technical jargon and process speak are out, business acumen and marketing skills are in.

Out: Task Mastership
In: Leading and Motivating

Hiring singularly focused, highly technical people and pushing them to succeed is an antiquated process that leaves them feeling demotivated, undervalued and burnt out. Companies now want full-stack developers who not only crunch code, but also consider the broader issues of team productivity, performance optimization, design and the user experience. Modern developers don’t want to be controlled, they want to be inspired and lead.

“Project managers have to be more than keepers of the schedule,” noted Joseph Launi, PMP and president of Project Management Experts. “In order to be effective, they need to put the right people in the right jobs and give them the resources, support and mentorship to advance their careers and succeed.”

Out: Tools Before Process
In: Process Before Tools

The days of investing in enterprise-level project management systems that dictate processes or require costly customization are pretty much over, unless you happen to work in a very large organization that employs hundreds of developers and business analysts.

Instead, savvy PMs are selecting cloud-based tools and apps that support their existing models, project portfolios and best practices honed over time.

“Prioritizing tools over process is like putting the cart before the horse,” Launi said. “Plus, your reputation as a PM may suffer when stakeholders wonder why the tool you’re using isn’t working, when the real problem is that the tool has disrupted your team’s workflow and processes.”

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