Project Management Trends For 2011

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ESI International, an Arlington, VA-based project management learning company, recently revealed its Top Global Project Management Trends for 2011. Key themes include building the project manager’s (PM) influence, accelerating new leadership and communication skills, and increased use of informal learning approaches such as social media and experiential training. A global panel of consultants and senior executives assembled by ESI identified the trends.

Leadership Skills Will Be The PM’s Critical Success Factor
Leadership skills, such as critical thinking, crucial communication and organizational change management, will be strategically imperative project management competencies to master. In 2011’s project management landscape – featuring more complex projects and greater use of virtual teams – being on time and on budget will require not just a laser-like focus on the triple constraints but on the requisite leadership skills necessary for an individual PM’s success. The challenge for organizations will be to clearly define what “leadership” means in the project and program management context.

No Industry Will Be Spared From The War For PM Talent
Savvy talent management and retention strategies will be essential to ward off poaching in 2011. Although economic recovery has been uneven worldwide, PMs with the greatest mobility and experience will have the best opportunities for career growth through “overseas” assignments. In particular, India and China will continue to be plagued by a dearth of competent and experienced PMs to manage large and complex infrastructure and IT projects. Additionally, as mega-projects at the King Abdullah Economic City north of Jidda and King Abdullah Financial District on the outskirts of Riyadh kick into high gear, more opportunities for work in the Middle East will become a reality.   

Competency Models Will Be Core To Managing Professional Development And Promotions For PMs
As project management gains greater acceptance as a discipline, the hiring, assignment, promotion, and professional development of PMs will be based on comprehensive competency models. In order for these models to be effective, they must be company-specific. Competency models illuminate the behaviors required for a PM to be successful and take on larger and more complex projects. Accordingly, the CLO (or senior HR executive), business unit heads and the enterprise project management office (EPMO) need to work shoulder-to-shoulder to identify and codify organization-specific competencies, thereby building a framework for talent management success.

Experiential Learning Will Be More The Norm Than The Exception
The professional development of PMs will increasingly focus on reality based learning and on-the-job training, an approach certain organizations in Asia have taken for many years. Learning providers will be required to send PMs back to the job from such sessions with the ability to apply what they learned to their current projects immediately. Even the many universities that offer project management degrees will face the challenge of making their courses and programs relevant, practical, and pragmatic based on participants’ real projects. The lecture mode is dead and any training provider or university who ignores it does so at its peril.

Informal Learning For PMs Will Gain Momentum
Organizations will continue to develop and exploit informal learning approaches such as communities of practice (CoP), various forms of social media, as well as coaching and mentoring. With millenials joining the workforce in greater numbers, we will witness more effective use of social learning technologies and approaches, such as wikis, blogs, videos, podcasts, and other methods of communication. With four generations now in the workplace, it is not only the millenials who will benefit by such relatively new forms of learning. However, the great Zen kōan question of the day is, “If informal learning becomes formal, does it become formal learning?” If the answer is yes, do we search for more informal learning to formalize?

Project Sponsorship Will Become An Area Of Focus In South Asia
The roles and responsibilities of the project sponsor will be a key focus in South Asia, especially in India and Bangladesh, as organizations try to accelerate their structured approach to project management. Such organizations are trying to avoid the experience of others in their industries around the world whose “spotty” record of success in project sponsorship has contributed in whole, or in part, to less than successful projects.

Outsourcing Will Remain A Risky Business

The continued growth of outsourcing will force organizations to pay more heed to its associated risks and conduct better due diligence. As a response, organizations will strengthen their risk management cultures and recognize the value of best practices in contract management. More than a euphemism, the word “sourcing” will replace the term outsourcing as it more accurately describes the resource allocation approach both internally and externally for many organizations.

PMs Will Team With “Change Partners” And Use Structured Methods To Facilitate Adoption
Projects initiate change and PMs are change agents. Yet, they have been ill-equipped to facilitate the type of change required to adopt the product or service the project delivers. In 2011, we will see more organizations developing and assigning “change partners,” also known as change management experts, to projects to assist in such adoption. Moreover, project teams will slowly, but steadily, increase their use of change management methods, which will be packaged as methodologies.

“Project management continues to play a critical role in driving operational efficiencies,” said J. LeRoy Ward, PMP, PgMP, Executive Vice President, ESI. “Savvy business leaders are putting more stead in project management to fine tune their competitive advantage. Alongside technical savvy, other skills such as negotiation, communication, critical thinking, change management and leadership are taking on new importance for project managers. Influence and organizational agility will be key factors for performance improvement going forward.”

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