Project Management Institute

Accelerating into the Future

Looking up at the ceiling through strings of twinkle lights hanging down

Photo by Joshua Sortinoon Unsplash

15 October 2020

“What’s Next?” is a question many ask, but as we continue to face uncertain times, how can we prepare our organizations for the next chapter. Following PMI’s monthly Global Executive Council meeting, check out a few best practices for staying ahead and accelerating your organization into the future.

One important way PMI works to stay ahead of what’s next in the world of work is through the insights of our Global Executive Council—a group of leading organizations from around the world that embrace the power of effective project management as a key strategic competency that reduces risk, cuts costs, and improves success rates. Council members demonstrate the necessity for project skills across sectors and industries, representing every type of organization from Fortune 500 multinationals to government agencies. 

Each Council organization is well-positioned to influence the direction and future of the project management profession, helping us to “sense and respond” to what is happening in the marketplace. 

In September, we came together for our latest virtual meeting of the Council, in which we welcomed insights from thought leaders, exchanged ideas in panel discussions, and even embarked on some virtual site visits to look at innovative projects in action. 

The theme of the meeting was “Accelerating into the Future,” exploring how recent trends and shocks have acted as a catalyst to expedite change and transformation across the globe. I found it very interesting that despite the enormous range of disciplines and industries represented, our organizations seem to face very similar challenges in the sense of keeping pace in a “digital first” environment. The charge for leaders today is to accelerate their best practices and move quickly to stay relevant and “win the future.” 

A few take-aways and impressions I came away with from the perspectives shared at the meeting: 

Don’t confuse process with outcomes.

Too often executives can become overly fixated on following a specific set of practices as the end goal—when what they should really be after is business performance.  

This can often happen with Agile, as one example; agility itself is not the goal. Greater value and performance should be the goal. Agile is a huge piece of the puzzle to maximize performance—but it’s one piece. And that mindset can’t make up for major gaps in other areas, such as leadership and business skills. Ask yourself: Is the goal to become more Agile, or to maximize performance? 

Today your emotional intelligence, or EQ—the ability to tap into the mental state of those around you—is arguably as important today as your IQ.

Much of our technology today, notably social media platforms, don’t consider the natural ways humans connect when they are face to face. This trend is more relevant today than ever in a virtual environment in which more people are working and learning online. Virtual connections and communications must be re-imagined for this paradigm shift.  

Most often, how humans communicate is expressed non-verbally, but the vast majority of online communication is text-based. Managers may hear, “I love it,” from their team members, but what are their non-verbal cues saying? We may need to re-imagine how we can better read the emotions of colleagues online, as it can be difficult to determine when online attendees are bored or fully engaged. Can you imagine if a teacher could better determine how engaged their students were? 

Un-learning is just as important as learning.

Knowledge can grow obsolete as conditions change over time—even once useful knowledge. Recognizing this reality requires that leaders can not only learn new knowledge but also let go of old practices that may have outlived their usefulness. Unlearning is not about forgetting, removing or discarding knowledge or experience. It’s about the conscious act of letting go of outdated information and actively engaging in taking in new information to inform effective decision making. 

Customer demands change all the time. Many of the skills that once made us successful can ultimately go on to limit us in the future. COVID-19 was an accelerator for organizations to rapidly adjust to changing circumstances. The organizations that have thrived during the downturn have shared a commonality: they built systems that allow them to rapidly learn from customer behaviors and respond quickly. 

I remain deeply appreciative of the insights of the PMI Global Executive Council for helping us to expand our conceptions of what’s possible—and better sense what is coming in the future.