Association for Project Management
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Let’s flip project management on its head

Blog posted by: Ian Clarkson, 17 March 2020.


There are many reports about the potential impact of technology such as automation and artificial intelligence (AI) on the future of jobs. And there is a serious undertone from tech experts such as Jack Ma, Alibaba, and Elon Musk, Tesla that technology is impacting the future of work.

Tye Brady, Amazon’s chief robotics technologist discussed his thoughts about robotics replacing humans. He suggests robots and AI replacing humans was a myth, and ‘the challenge that we have in front of us is how do we smartly design our machines to extend human capability’. And instead of focusing on what AI and robotics will replace, he thinks about this as ‘a symphony of humans and machines working together…you need both.’.

What a beautiful phrase: a symphony of humans and machines working together” (I wish I had come up with it). What’s clear is that technology is advancing; let’s acknowledge that we are in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) and so professions, including project management, need to evolve to work with the technology '…you need both'.

How it needs to evolve is not an easy question to answer. And that’s the basis of the Association for Project Management’s work, Projecting the Future. In my view, it is actually a set of interdependent questions. For example:

  • How do we attract, develop and retain future project professionals?
  • What skills does the project profession need in the future?

Anyone who knows me will acknowledge I like a stat, so here’s one for you: 5.5m (projected) under-skilled workers in project management by 2030 according to the future of work: Rethinking skills to tackle the UK’s looming talent shortage, McKinsey, November 2019. Let that sink in a moment. This report shows the top twelve knowledge areas projected number of underskilled workers by 2030, including project management.

By this account there is a resource shortage looming in project management. We need to fill it. When we add in another stat (I did tell you I like them) from World Economic Forum: The Future of Jobs Report 201665 per cent of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist, are we facing a project management resource crisis? This is why I said how project management needs to evolve is a set of interdependent questions: to attract, develop and retain future project professionals is intrinsically linked to the skills the future of our profession needs.

You can find out more about attracting the younger profession into project management and thriving in the fourth industrial revolution world in my last blog.

As for resources and skills, the ‘mood’ is that ‘soft skills’ (for want of a better word) are going to be more prominent in the future.

Sticking with the World Economic Forum, they predicted the top ten skills in 2020 you need to thrive in the 4IR, including:

  1. complex problem solving
  2. critical thinking
  3. creativity
  4. people management
  5. coordinating with others
  6. emotional intelligence
  7. judgement and decision making
  8. service orientation
  9. negotiation
  10. cognitive flexibility

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