Thoughts on The Project Economy

For those of us in the project management circle, we are hearing a lot about “The Project Economy” and how the radical and disruptive changes are evolving the future of work. While I am not an expert on this topic, nor am I as forward-thinking enough to fully comprehend how the way we work is changing, here are my thoughts around the concept of “The Project Economy”.

How do you define the concept of “The Project Economy”?

Advancements in technology and the need for businesses to evolve to meet market and customer demands have propelled organizations to change how we work. The Project Economy is about evolving from routine work of operating the business to one of changing or transforming the business. The primary vehicle for “changing the business” and delivering value to our employees and customers is through projects.

How will “The Project Economy” impact individuals?

Individuals will increasingly work within a project-driven workflow, rather than operational workflows. Initially, these initiatives will be contained within organizations, but the value will scale when projects are applied to cross-organizational efforts in society. Individuals will join and exit cross-discipline project teams as needed. As contributors, individuals will be given increasingly more opportunities to apply their expertise toward initiatives that generate value and benefits.

How will work present itself within organizations?

Work will be a blend of operational and project-based initiatives. Business organizations will retain some structure and governance around standing up projects.

How widespread do you believe this phenomenon to be?

We are just at the beginning of the Project Economy, thus it is not wide-spread. Some industries, such as construction, IT, finance, government, and pharma, are heavily invested in project-based workflows. Other industries (i.e. healthcare, education) are lagging in this evolution.

What has led to organizational shifts within the project management profession?

The migration of work from operational departments into project-driven parts of organizations have led to the rise in importance of project management. This has driven the need for not only more project managers, but better-skilled project leaders. Some organizations are elevating project execution and delivery to an executive level.

Where will the major working changes need to be made for organizations to remain effective and efficient?

Financial and budgeting practices within most organizations are still 19th Century and need to evolve to support more fast-paced and iterative business models that are required of the Project Economy.

In terms of the skill sets focus, what should organizations be working to develop?

Organizations should develop adaptive and growth mindsets within their employees and managers. Leaders will need to be well-versed in change management and project managers will need improved business skills.

What are the risks and the opportunities that could arise in trying to re-educate the workforce about a new set of project management skills?

There are several risks relating to re-training the workforce, here are two:

  • Individuals lacking growth mindsets will want to remain with their tried-and-true methods. There may be fear associated with the new and unfamiliar skills and practices.
  • Not all industries (or types of project work) will require project leaders to “re-educate”.

One opportunity: a combination of MBA and PMP skills and expertise will open many doors to success in the Project Economy. 

What does this new way of working mean for project managers and how is this going to change the way they work on an everyday basis?

Project managers will need improved business acumen and skills, and will need to be comfortable with managing change. In addition to delivering stakeholder value, project managers will also become responsible for “changing the business”.

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