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Change is constant, uncertainty is rising – are your project leaders prepared?

By Russell Kenrick, Managing Director at ILX Group | 28 September 2020

If the landscape you operate in is changing fast, then what…

First a mini rant. Am I alone in getting fed up about the lack of plain English that’s written today? If I read one more article about existential threats or paradigm shifts that are going to impact us, I think I might explode.

I get it, change is all around us, and for some, talking about existential threats or paradigm shifts helps them to emphasise their point. But I think it’s starting to lose its impact. In my experience, people are starting to gloss over that narrative in search of something simpler.

High on the priority list for Project Managers Leaders today, is living with uncertainty. I call them Project Leaders, not Managers, deliberately… because in times of change, we need more leaders.

And leadership is not the preserve of the CEO. Business is no longer about the lone heroes, it’s about high performance teams. And high performance teams require leadership at all levels.

“Be the change you want to see” – Gandhi.

“Be the leader you wish you had” – Simon Sinek.

What we need in this world is more Coaches, Mentors and Leaders… and fewer Supervisors, Managers and Bosses… but that’s for another day.

Change creates challenge and opportunities, and guess what… change is constant.

But it’s the rate of change that is increasing, leading to unprecedented levels of uncertainty. Your ability to live with uncertainty almost defines how you run projects and programmes these days. And it’s not for everybody. Some Project Managers Leaders rely heavily on techniques and plans that guide their thinking and behaviours. These are logical steps from rational thinkers, and we need that. However whilst this is good practice and even desirable, it alone, is not enough in a fast changing context.

The change can come from anywhere and at any time. 12 months ago, a pandemic that leads to grounded planes, businesses closing offices and teams not getting together was unimageable. It’s one of your classic high impact, low probability risks… and now look where we are. When faced with external challenges, Project Managers Leaders would do well to remember this quote from the CEO of one of our customers “This is not a crisis of our making. But it is the crisis that we face and we must deal with it.”

All too quickly things can get out of control, causing stress levels to rise, and this then leads to increased costs, missed deadlines or additional resource requests. Hardly desirable.

Continuous improvement and lifelong learning is one of the only sure-fire ways to deal with increasing uncertainty. It’s not a silver bullet, but in my experience when you invest in yourself, be that with a course, reading a book, asking for feedback, or just reflecting on your performance, breakthroughs happen. There are good reasons for lesson logs and retrospectives (even if we don’t always learn the lessons).

So this change they speak about… the damn existential threats that annoy me, they’re all around us. They are challenging us with new levels of uncertainty, they are reducing our planning time, and giving us fewer opportunities to formalise. There is more disruption, in fact I would go so far as to say, disruption is now constant. And we know there is a direct correlation between the amount of disruption and project delays. Which is why we need Project Managers Leaders with a range of tools at their disposal.

For many, traditional project management methodologies and techniques have dominated their working lives, and if that’s the case for you, maybe it’s time to look at some personal development?

Have you considered adding to your skills?

PRINCE2 Agile® e-learning

Agile and Scrum Foundation e-learning

Scrum Master e-learning

AgileBA® (Agile Business Analysis) e-learning

Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt (process improvement) e-learning

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