Antionio Nieto-Rodriguez is the worldwide project management expert. He has studied about 25,000 of them, and wrote a handbook about them for HBR last year. That he now declares the chief of operations dead is quite remarkable.
To understand why he feels this way, first a little story from his hand. “We have all grown up in a world where running a business, operating, was the most important thing. Most organizations have learned to succeed by focusing on efficiency, volume and cost.”
‘Projects were nice to have, an opportunity, only important for the project managers, the rest of the company did not care. But we have become much better at producing, we got everything made in China, so fewer people were needed for the operation.
The revolution in companies
Operators became frustrated as a result, and to pass the time allotted to projects. They go from few to many projects alongside their daily work. Today, most CEOs do not even know how many projects they have running in their organization. They have more projects than employees. ‘
The concert economy takes place within companies: you are now an Uber driver
This is the development in a nutshell, Nieto-Rodriguez informed his audience at the Danish presidential summit. Towards disruption: Artificial intelligence and robots are changing the way we do our work. “Operations will be completely wiped off the map, but also economics and marketing experts are no longer needed because AI can do this job.” Those people go … right, also to projects.
And then we come to his project revolution: the gig economy takes place in companies. “You’re all become Uber drivers now. You move through the organization based on where they need you in projects. You no longer have a job description because you move to your next job every six months.”
The future of the work is projects
Projects used to be temporary, but now they are becoming permanent. Operations will keep your organization afloat for a while, but change is constant. Anticipating, managing and driving this change has now become the focus. The future of the work is projects, so make sure you manage them well, he says.
No one is as bad at projects as executives and CEOs
The vision is outlined, but are we ready for this? No, says Nieto-Rodriguez. The challenge is that everyone needs to be trained to work on projects, especially the C-suite. “No one is as poorly prepared for project management, coordination and sponsorship as managers and CEOs. They have no idea how it works. “
Organizations are also extremely bad at projects, by the expert. ‘Nearly 70 per cent of projects fail and that is very bad. Imagine that in a hospital about 70 percent of patients die or that 70 percent of planes crash. ‘
To be successful in a world driven by efficiency, you need to organize your business in a certain way. The most common for this is command and control. And that is precisely the problem, according to Nieto-Rodriguez.
“You can’t run projects in hierarchies, it doesn’t work. One cannot achieve change or transformation in silos. We have been trying to do that for over twenty years now. If you want to lead a major digital transformation in a hierarchy, then failure is guaranteed, one hundred percent. ‘
The best way to find out if a project will work? Ask for volunteers
So what do you need in a world dominated by change? A culture of entrepreneurship, of collaboration. It’s not about costs, it’s about innovation, experimentation and constant transformation.
Create value faster
Therefore, the requirements for a project have also changed, he says. A company cannot afford to wait for years for a project to start delivering. ‘The challenge is to create value faster.’
It is up to the managers to choose the right projects. You do not need a business case for that, says Nieto-Rodriguez. ‘Have you ever seen a business case that did not look good? Is there another way to find out if a project is going to work? Yes, ask for volunteers. ‘
With purpose, you create involvement, but you must also fulfill it
‘Ask your company who will participate in your project. If people volunteer, that’s a good sign. Your people see the value in what they believe this project will be a game changer. What happens if no one volunteers? Then you probably know, do not start it, do not waste your time.
A canvas for projects
Do not immediately think of complicated project management situations, reassures Nieto-Rodriguez. He has developed a project canvas for this that you can apply to any project when you need to select and follow up.
You can find a simple version in his article on HBR, or the more comprehensive version on his website. The underlying basis of all projects: purpose, investment and return.
»The purpose is the most important, because in that way you create involvement for your project. You must not only have a goal, but also a plan to achieve that goal. That’s what makes people excited.
Like the well-known story of the NASA janitor who saw floor mopping as his contribution to putting the first man on the moon. What projects in your organization are people proud of? What are you talking about with friends or family? That’s what matters. ‘