How will the job profile of a project manager change? The job market is increasingly asking for agile leaders. What does agile mean and are maybe project leaders the perfect cast leading us into the future?
When I started 16 years ago, a project manager would plan, coordinate and execute a project step by step. However, most projects or team members would not act as planned. Just like life, changes to the project scope, time or resources were our daily job (even if you did detailed risk mitigation). Reaction time to a project change was much longer than today. In other words, manage and introducing change is the biggest part of the job and projects are already essentially agile. That is not new. Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of the Roman empire wrote in 160 BC:
“Observe continually that all things exist in change; and keep this thought ever with you, that Nature loves nothing more than changing what things now are, and making others like them. For what now is, is in a manner the seed of what shall be.”
Why is Agility the key competency today? Agility is used as a buzzword for everything. But what does “agile” actually mean? Most managers have no answer or a self-defined definition to this question. Google makes it so easy to look it up. 😉 The Cambridge Dictionary describes “Agility” as “the ability to move our body quickly and easily” or “the ability to think quickly and clearly”. In a business context, agility is the ability of an organisation to rapidly adapt to market and environmental changes in productive and cost-effective ways. As a result of the cold war and an uncertain future, VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) was developed in 1987. In 1997 Paul Stoltz introduced the Adversity Quotient, today is known as change resilience. With COVID an additional factor arises: Speed of Change. Agility alone is therefore not enough to cope with the continuous and fast pacing change happening around us.
Which mindset and competencies do you have to bring along for a successful agile change leadership? When change is happening, our brains do usually react with fear and stress. That puts your body into an automatic mode, suppressing the ability to think clearly. That reaction is our survival mechanism triggered by our reptile brain. So it’s not entirely bad. The base for an agile mindset is therefore how you cope with stress.
Besides agility, the following competencies are needed as a project leader:
general people leadership (direction, conflicts, decision making, communication, team building, stakeholder management) plus coaching/mentoring skills
strong communication skills across all organisational levels, functions and different cultures
project management methods and organisational development skills (i.e. time/scope/budget/work processes/workshops/etc.)
general breadth knowledge on industries, cross-functional areas and understanding of the overall context
creativity, agility, open-minded, strategic thinking, persuasiveness, change resilient, emotional intelligence, sense of humour and patience, tech-savvy
Do you find yourself in that description? Then you are the perfect cast for leading us into the future.