“You are the Project Manager, you take notes!”, said the technical architect, in front of client representatives during a critical project meeting.

“No, I haven’t opened the excel sheet”, was the response from another key technical team member after the project manager sent a risk register to validate its artifacts.

“I am at the office if you need me”, was yet another key team members response to a project manager’s request for a meeting.

In an environment whose culture encourages accidental operation and project management, these are common situations that happen with junior and senior staff of various organizational functions.

Background: These environments have been dominated for many decades by its technical and functional groups amplified by other internal politics and administrative bureaucracy.  Where the key driver for work is focused on the “accidental” flow of technical specs, statements of work, drawings & mockups, business analysis documents, testing capabilities, quality metrics, financial sheets, customers’ requests, etc.

Project management, by its nature, and the Project Manager by association, is often seen as a threat and in direct competition with existing legacy “powers” spread across financial officers, sales and marketing, development, business, design, quality and customers. This has been the plight of many project managers in various cultures, geographies, industries and sectors.  This highly complex role also helps explains why there is a talent deficiency in ‘competent’ project management.  Often, organizations are left with no choice but to use less than ideal project management resources which can both cause additional problems in the organization as well as give the false perception that project management is the root cause.

A key challenge and success factor of the project management role is to figure out how to navigate these internal complexities, adding to the external ones, and effectively manage stakeholder engagement by understanding and managing each stakeholder’s often unique expectations. This often includes managing various sub-contractors, vendors, regulatory, technical, quality, safety, and business solutions providers.

A Solution: The modern solution to address these challenges, is to develop and ensure the ability of a project management function to enable a platform of agile collaboration between all these “powers”, which are already in competition, tradeoffs, themselves independent from an added project management function. To that extent, the value of a project manager, beyond its core value of adding new capability to the existing organization, is to help the organization drive towards a platform and model that promotes increasing collaboration in the environment.  Increasing internal collaboration should reduce internal friction and help drive a mindset shift as the organization better aligns on common goals and strategic alignment.

As organizational environments continue to grow in complexity, they would benefit from more proactive collaboration which enables organizations to anticipate future changes and/or trends, reducing uncertainty, increasing the ability of the organization to respond to un-predicted events. The old methods and transitional structure of delivering results and to remain competitive in the increasing global and technology enabled market are not sustainable anymore. 

Cross-functional teams need to be involved in planning, integrating, anticipating, defining, developing, examining, improving, submitting, sensing and responding to the increasing rapid pace of global change. This new organizational framework enables the integration between the strategic plan, portfolios, programs, projects, subprojects and other work. Those become the link to strategy and the imperative drivers for strategy execution, delivery of results, and capturing the sensing and responding capabilities towards more enhanced and revised strategy. This needs, definitely, to be supported by effective project management governance, practices and framework.

A leadership capacity and platform is the “new modern Solution” in an agile driven environment, sensing and responding model, collaborative and proactive working environment whose capabilities all together contribute towards common organizational   goals, outside the limitation of structure, roles, hierarchy and administrative bureaucracy.

We are facing a future, where the project manager role is evolving towards a transformation leader enabling the changes to happen effectively and efficiently.