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African 'Youthquake' a top trend to watch in project management

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Project professionals are set to pay a pivotal role in avoiding the point of no return when it comes to the looming climate change catastrophe.


That’s one of the six key insights to emerge in the recently released 2020 Signposts Report, compiled by the international Project Management Institute (PMI).

According to PMI president and CEO Sunil Prashara, project leaders require new kinds of thinking to deal with the complex issues that have become the new “normal” in what he believes is rapidly becoming "the Project Economy".

There is a need to reimagine not just the nature of work, but the way in which it gets done. 

“This isn’t about defining work by its features or attributes, or by who holds what role. This is about figuring out what needs to get done, and the best way to do it,” the report states.

Prashara says project leaders can’t truly deliver value without a strong understanding of the major business, technological, economic and geopolitical trends shaping the world.

They also need to possess new “power skills” like empathy, creativity and inspirational leadership.

Six PM signposts

The PMI report identifies six trends, or signposts, that it believes are most critical, and explores how these are influencing the work of project leaders.

1. African “Youthquake”

As the rest of the world’s population ages, the new generation of talent who will have to tackle the new generation of projects will come largely from Africa and other developing regions. However, these professionals will be largely inexperienced, requiring older project managers to change their leadership styles to become more like project coaches.

2.  Climate change

This is one of the biggest existential threats to civilisation, but one in which project professionals can play a pivotal role in turning around, by leading projects that effectively balance economic development and environmental sustainability.

3. Artificial intelligence 

Artificial intelligence (AI) poses huge threats to the world of work as we know it. But it also offers immense opportunities for project leaders with the right blend of people and tech skills to help make the most of the technology, while mitigating the risks to society. Already, some 23% of initiatives managed by project professionals use AI, and this is expected to rise to 37% over the next three years.

4. Rampant protectionism

Growing protectionism (think Brexit) and nationalism (think the backlash against refugees in some European countries) is stopping, or slowing down, the once seemingly invincible march of globalisation. While it’s still business as usual for many project teams, tweaks are already required, particularly for those planning and executing projects involving multinational, multi-ethnic and geographically distributed teams.

5. Information security

Keeping information safe will require a united front, backed by a cross-disciplinary, enterprise-wise cybersecurity culture.

6. Infrastructure gap

The global, widening infrastructure gap between needs and investment requires project leaders to draw on data-driven innovation and good, old-fashioned people skills to ensure that the gap is closed.

In light of all this, the PMI states that to truly make a difference, organisations need project leaders “who bring holistic perspectives, a deep curiosity and broad skill sets to the work at hand”.

This means an increased demand for versatile and bold project leaders, capable of embracing new ways of working, leading diverse teams and exploring innovative solutions,” concludes the PMI.

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