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2021 Outlook of Project Management (1)

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Author: Iain Fraser     Source: PMR&PMWJ

Journalist’s words: With the Covid-19 epidemic still spreading globally, we are nearing the end of 2020. It’s the time to look back and ahead. In the VUCA-influenced world, in what direction will project management go and what will be the top qualities for project leaders to survive and thrive in this era? Our PMR magazine invited experts to share their viewpoints. The following is what Iain Fraser said:

Topic 1: Project management trends in 2021 and future
The near-term and mid-term futures offer huge opportunities for the project management profession to exercise more business management awareness. As a consequence of this, we shall see a greater shift away from conversations surrounding certifications, methods, and tools to higher callings such as value contribution, time to value, and greater focus on outcomes. As the world pivots around a ‘survive, revive, and survive’ mantra following the Covid-19 epidemic, in the short-term we are likely to see governments stimulating their battered economies with large-scale investments in housing, engineering/construction, water, transportation, power to create jobs and to better their societies. Further out we shall see more attention on the advancement of some of the “17# Sustainable Development” goals published by the United Nations with the lofty goal of achievement by 2030. A world where poverty and hunger are eliminated and one that is safe from dramatic climate change are ambitious indeed. That’s just ten years from now! All of those will see a progressive and positive towards business and project decisions that:
1) Are based on value contribution. Value is expressed in four themes – value to customer, value to staff & brand, strategic value and financial value.
2) Question time to value – how quickly each project delivers its output to trigger the capturing of value. 
3) Require more planning – a post-pandemic and a VUCA-influenced world will see the return of careful planning that is phased in approach. Less debate on mind-numbing dialogue on agile versus waterfall as if there was a single choice.
4) Use more hybrid approaches to manage timeframes, costs, risks, etc.

Topic 2: Top qualities needed for the VUCA era in 2021 
Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous (VUCA) influences on the world will likely accelerate during 2021 and beyond. Organisational leaders will need to adjust their mental models and adapt different approaches. Some qualities may stay the same; however, others will require emphasis and higher priority. Here are my top five qualities in no particular order:
1) Focus on Purpose. Rather than the somewhat tedious layers of statements and plans so common in the 20th century, it is now time to ditch the mission statement and replace with a well-crafted purpose statement that has an ‘outside-in’ perspective to it. That together with a really well-written strategic vision statement will see clarity on intent through the organisation as well as beyond e.g. customers, supply chain, society, etc.
2) Leadership. Develop and populate a sense of community. Know your own leadership strengths. These will have a positive impact on the culture of the organisation. This is an on-going activity of VUCA leadership, ie not a ‘once-off’ endeavour.
3) Interpersonal skills – Use the HELP approach (Humour, Excite, Listen, Praise) with individuals, teams, and groups alike. The HELP approach is discussed in my book ‘The Business of Portfolio Management – Boosting Organizational Value’. Using the HELP approach in conjunction with points 1 & 2 above will sharpen the focus required to combat the VUCA influences.
4) Risk versus Reward – Challenging existing risk thresholds to allow greater flexibility. Know how to balance between loss and gain on those two competing forces. This is particularly relevant to grouped initiatives across both capex and opex.

5) Judgment – Combining the above points but then using ‘Head, Heart & Gut’ reasoning to determine the best decision option. The ‘Head’ relates to knowledge and data, the ‘Heart’ to the passion ignited through clear vision and purpose statements, and the ‘Gut’ draws from your experience and others as judgement is applied. 


(The series to be continued)


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