From pandemic-induced disruptions to supply chain issues and a stark talent shortage, there’s never been a more important time for robust project management. Across industries, project management best practices can help stabilize organizations while leading them into a digitally driven future.
As part of our series with experts from the Project Management Institute, Ben Breen, Managing Director of PMI – Asia Pacific and Global Head of Construction, and Joe Cahill, Chief Account Officer, share their insights on managing project in Australia.
The most pressing trends facing Australian businesses
Many of the trends affecting industries today are not just Australian-related, but reflect the state of things around the world. According to Cahill, while digital disruption may be the most obvious challenge, it’s just an umbrella term that covers a host of micro-trends that influence the way we run projects.
“Digital disruption has become more aggressive throughout the pandemic due to the adjustments we’ve had to make to how and where we work,” he says. “But artificial intelligence, machine learning, cybersecurity – all of these technological advancements far exceed our ability to really absorb such changes.”
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Project managers are central to helping organizations and employees navigate these changes. Part of digital business transformation means there is always a “project” going on. When an experienced project manager is at the helm, they can help their team take an idea and turn it into reality in the workplace.
“We’re also seeing some very interesting demographic shifts in terms of an aging population,” adds Cahill. “We have already passed the point where there are more seniors over 50 than young people. There are many implications to this. For example, when people in this older demographic retire, there simply aren’t enough people behind them to fill the positions, which contributes to the talent shortage.
Fostering stability despite disruptions
In addition to these challenges, we are also seeing rapidly changing skill requirements for critical industries, economic changes in Australia and globally, supply chain challenges and the wider climate discussion playing a role in business operations.
For Breen, companies must strengthen their project management strategies not only to survive in this disruptive market, but also to retain their best people, those who make their company successful.
“If a leader can understand what an individual’s true priorities are, then they can align those aspirations with those of the organization. When that happens, you create loyalty,” he says.
Beyond loyal staff, Breen says companies need to be more nimble. “We have to have the ability to adjust the way we do things. We must recognize that things are not done the same way as before, and we must look for better ways to achieve the desired result. It comes down to cultivating the right skills to improve the way we deliver projects.
The four main skills in project management
“About 75% of Australian CEOs say they see a big skills gap in their workforce,” says Cahill. “Project management still emerges as one of the top five skills needed in this new era of work.”
So, in the context of project management, what are the qualities that leaders and their team members need to acquire in order to function well in the face of disruption?
- Empathy: Cahill says, “Empathy for the customer, in particular, is something that makes a successful project manager and also a successful business person. Really understanding what they need and being able to communicate it with them is essential for the success of the project.
- Opening : Breen says, “Create a team culture where people are open, not afraid of getting in trouble. Show them that you will support them no matter what is happening around them. This level of openness is really important. Don’t throw them under the bus — support them and work as a team.
- Adaptability: Cahill says, “Be more adaptable and agile. You have to be adaptable as a project manager because you’re right between the person who has the idea and the people who make it happen. Being in the midst of all this uncertainty and anxiety means you have to be adaptable.
- Diversity: Breen says, “Encourage diversity on your teams to generate the right conversations. You want people from all walks of life to come and give their opinion based on their personal experiences.
Both Cahill and Breen agree that skills development needs to happen more broadly than at the project management level. From the C-suite to the new hire, making people comfortable with change and encouraging them to adopt the right skills for the right scenario is what will help organizations emerge on the other side of disruption.
Read now: Adapt to change with an agile mindset