The Future of Project Management – an evening with Paul Major


The Eastern Branch of the APM held a very enjoyable evening seminar on the future of project management with Paul Major (@changemakerPM, http://paulmajor.wordpress.com) on Wednesday 7th November.
I captured Paul’s main points, and the course of the discussion in a series of tweets, which I’ve reproduced here with some additional notes.

Shifted from delivering transformational change through “personal heroics” to using Project Management for success!

Paul’s origins are in leading transformational change, and indeed this is his continuing focus.  But the difference he discovered some years ago was in being introduced to the rigorous processes of Project Management and how these can make transformational change more successful.

Paul’s emphasis now on how to change things in a way that can be sustained through facilitation & influence

Just introducing something new and hoping that it will take hold is of course not enough – effective change relies on changing behaviours and mindsets.  That is what Paul aims to do.

Just doing team hoohah to get started!

This was a very interactive seminar!  Now and again we would do a team ‘hoohah’ to get ourselves energized and ready to talk to each other… That was the theory, and in fact everyone joined in, had a laugh and it worked very well.

Prehistory from 2570BC; exploring 1870-1956; forming 1967-1974; adapting to 1996; defining to 2010

Paul took us though an interesting journey.  Project Management has, as we know, been around a very long time – how would the pyramids been built without it.  The various PM organisations were formed in the 1960s-1970s, and lots of new training, standards and reference books started to emerge in the following decades and yet, Paul argues, we are still very much in the ‘defining’ stage of the profession.

APM membership accelerating at rate of extra 1000 members per year since 2006

The growth in membership has definitely been exponentially accelerating and is now around 20,000.

Olympics radically changed public perception / recognition of Project Management

The Project Management associated with the London 2012 Olympics was not only highly effective, but also seems to be making the professional suddenly more glamorous!

Living in a world that is changing beyond exponentially – amount of things & change – that is the world for Project Managers to deal with!

We watched what became, at least for me, a very scary video!  I know the world is changing exponentially in terms of the growth of data, information, knowledge; people’s connection to the internet; the size of populations etc..  But there’s nothing like seeing a graphic catalogue of the actual figures to really bring this home.

Using dreamer, realist and critic mindsets to explore this theme

I really enjoyed Paul’s approach to this workshop.  Being a facilitator myself, it’s fun to experience someone else facilitating me for a change, and to learn from their techniques.  We split into 3 groups and each group had to play one of these roles to explore what the future of project management might be.  Being in the ‘critic’ group was a tough one for me as I am in eternal optimist!  Paul has listed the outputs on his blog – http://paulmajor.wordpress.com/2012/11/08/apm-east-of-england-event/ – and the next few tweets were my summary.

  • Realist: motivation, people skills, high visibility, all needed to greater extent going forward; + more process
  • Critic: won’t be able to keep up with profession; more maverick; organisations want specialism
  • Dreamer: PM taught from early age; PM held in esteem; common language; automatic lessons learned (sic)

Paul’s view: PM’s will become the world’s changemakers (aside have heard same for #IM /Library profession)

The first part of the tweet speaks for itself.  The aside is a reflection of what I have heard with one of my other professional hats in the field of Information Management and Librarianship.  They too wonder about their changing roles in a world of exponential change and where people have ready access to information but perhaps are not always accessing and evaluating it effectively.

Our challenge is not creating and managing successful processes

Paul suggested that Project Managers are perhaps too inwardly focused on the mechanics of project management and should instead be focused on the next tweet.

Enabling change creates a real legacy & sustainable benefits

PM’s should be focusing on what they are creating for their stakeholders, now and in the longer term – as the Olympics team has done.

Being taught as a life skill in (some) primary schools

I think this was news for some of the participants.  Another interesting aside is the greater emphasis on ‘Information Literacy’ as a Life Skill in secondary schools at least.  Does anyone reading this blog know if that is also being taught in primary schools?

PM is now one of only 4 recognised professions in Siemens: will fail if not brilliant at PM

Paul was speaking from his discussions with people at Siemens – borne out by one of the delegates whose daughter also works there.  I wonder to what extent this is echoed in other innovation based organisations?  The next 2 tweets were about PM being key not only in the private but other sectors:

  • PM is competitive advantage in private sector
  • PM is key to enable service delivery in public sector to meet changing needs

PM profession still 1st generation talking about definitions – need to move to 2nd level & do something with it

Echoing an earlier point..

Otherwise someone else will move into PM space & will become process jockeys cf. Institute of Change Management

I can’t remember which Change Management organisation Paul was referring too in his talk.  There are a few!  One of them is the Change Management Institute, which has a UK branch – http://change-management-institute-uk.com/index.php  Interestingly, they do list Project Management as one of their competencies.

Forrester Research 2009 PM skills much more about emotional intelligence / soft skills to influence thinking

I didn’t pick up the details on this, but did find this very interesting presentation which mentions soft and other skills – http://www.slideshare.net/gotomeeting/project-management-by-forrester-research

PMs focus on the route & process; stakeholders focus on the end point – PMs need to reflect that

This and the next two tweets echoed and summarised earlier points

  • Shift from PMs delivering an output to changemakers delivering a legacy!
  • Shift from safe pair of hands (though still need them) to changemakers (some exist already)

Dr Martin Barnes: Project Management is the management of change…

I didn’t pick up the full quote, but this is the CEO of APM basically reinforcing Paul’s point about the changing role of Project Managers

Excellent presentation from@changemakerPM http://paulmajor.wordpress.com

Yes – all-in-all an excellent way to spend a Thursday evening!  And I am now following Paul on twitter and wordpress.

PM key to our survival in society!

Some of Paul’s closing words!

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale.

Elisabeth has 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry where she has held line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and in Lean Sigma and is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals), and APM (Association for Project Management).

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