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Strategy X pic1Challenging project leaders to lead confidently in uncertain times

Article provided by sponsor Strategy X

With the start of every new year, weWith the start of every new year, weagain recognise that our businessenvironment has expanded acrossgeographic and organisationalboundaries, and the project workthat we engage in has only grown incomplexity. As technology and themethods by which work gets donecontinue to evolve at an ever-increasingpace, our strategic projects facegreater challenges while involving morestakeholders than ever before. Theimplications are vast: today’s projectleaders need to make faster decisionsand think of new solutions to emergingproblems.They also must be able to see obstaclesand opportunities through a new lens.This requires an adaptive mindset andskill set – capabilities that go beyondjust the technical, tactical realm – to empower people to lead confidently in uncertain times.

This year’s trends, developed by ourteam of learning, product, and projectleadership experts, highlight reasonswhy adaptive skill sets are increasinglyin demand, and why project leadersat all levels of organisations across different industries should work to develop these holistic capabilities.



In the past years, we’ve heard plenty about the Ubers and Amazons of the world that shake up their industries and cause ripple effects in the business world. But even as organisations and customers adapt to their current realitie, it feels as though something new is always around the corner. Blockhain was the more resent trend to generate buzz, but will it have staying power? The fact is, even though they´re difficult to predict, disruptive technologies are here to stay. More important than being able to assess what the future holds is ensuring your leaders are equipped to react appropriately and adapt to whatever may come. According to a recent Accenture report, while 93% of executives say they know their industry will be disrupted at some point in the next five years, only 20% feel are highly prepared to address it1. Adaptive mindsets and skill sets will help those who drive disruptive technologies as well as those who are impacted by them stay ahead of the game by embracing imminent change and reacting more quickly to it.


As the inevitability of increased automation and robots looms large and humans wonder about their future in the labour force, it’s essential that we evaluate and analyse how artificial intelligence (AI) and big data have and will continue to affect project-based organisations and their leaders. Rather than seeing these developments as a threat, it’s more important to identify how humans can continue to create value that machines and data will never be able to replicate. Developing leaders today with holistic and adaptive skill sets beyond what robots can do will be the key for companies to adapt to what’s ahead. The “human element” – that is, competencies that require emotional and cognitive skills, such as influencing without authority or building effective teams, will become increasingly important as the need for button-pushing and other manual tasks will decline. Being able to see beyond big data for big data’s sake – and effectively curate, interpret, and extract actionable, practical insight and better decision-making from it – will set organisations apart from their competition. Companies that are slow to adapt to these shifting skill demands will fall behind.


Across all functions of the business world – from the private and the government sectors to marketing, payroll, and web development – the use of vendors and outsourcing is on the rise. Analysts forecast the global IT outsourcing market to grow at an annual rate of 4.42% between 2018 and 2022.2 The challenge for project-based workers overseeing outsourced work is having the right technical skills to manage the sourcing life cycle from start to finish, while also being able to have the adaptive and relational skills to maintain various vendor relationships. Further, having freelancers and various vendors working together on the same or overlapping projects introduces another challenge of aligning the cultures across these diverse stakeholders. Getting your vendors to think adaptively and approach problems in new ways will go a long way in driving a successful partnership with a strong culture of communication and collaboration.


The continuing volatility of the global environment is impacting all organisations, no matter their size or industry. Understanding the global context is no longer only a requirement for organisations that sit at the intersection of business and politics, but for all organisations, whether commercial businesses, contractors, government entities, or non-profit organisations. Whether impacted by Brexit, U.S.-China trade tensions, political divisiveness, or a host of other global issues, the challenge will be to continue to operate in this volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) environment in which political, social, and economic changes often occur more quickly than companies can adapt. The implications for project leaders trying to navigate this global context are significant. It’s harder for organisations to make longer-term bets when strategies are likely to change, requiring project teams to pivot. Developing an adaptive skill set across the enterprise is a crucial step toward building teams that can effectively operate and keep project-based work efforts moving forward.


We’rewitnessing the rise of shared platforms and other technology – Skype for Business, Slack, or Microsoft Teams, for example– to allow teams to track project work and milestones in a transparent and collaborative way. Microsoft announcedrecently that nearly 330,000 organisations worldwide use their Teams app – up from 125,000 only a year prior.3 The age of sending email documents back and forth is on the decline; many project-centred organisations are turning to information repositories to manage their work. Consider how many projects you work on whose stakeholders include people outside of your department, your organisation, and even your time zone. When teams are increasingly dispersed,enabling communication and information sharing in a unified way is critical to organising project work. Teams must be adaptive enough to learn these new technologies and also juggle priorities and milestones across multiple, cross functionalprojects.


While once reserved for IT and back-office operations, Agile is now rising to the top of organisations. As the C-suite tries to collaborate while functionally leading, an increasing challenge is how they can organise management beyond their expertise. One way for them to do this is by embracing an Agile mindset. A recent survey by Deloitte showed that more than 90% of senior executives give high priority to becoming agile.4 Leaders at the highest levels have begun to recognise that implementing Agile across the business allows an organisation and its people to adapt and change quickly. This does not necessarily mean that the C-suite is using Scrum or Kanban in their day-to-day work, but rather that executives understand that the need to turn on a dime and react quickly may be more important than turning out a finished, perfect product. This is also influencing how strategies are devised: no longer static and in a vacuum, they are developed in a more agile way that allows for pivots in response to external changes.


Enterprise-wide change management has taken on new relevance and importance, but not necessarily in the way we could have expected. We’ve seen many organisations hire specifically for change management roles, and some even establish specific change management departments. With the prevalence and frequency of change, we’re now also seeing a decentralisation of change management officers and a shift to spread this skill set across the business. Managing change is a skill set that can no longer be contained in one department. That is, project and programme managers, and increasingly, employees at all levels of the business, are expected to be change leaders and change agents. Getting more people involved – rather than a small group of players – goes a long way in establishing a collaborative culture that will buy into and commit tothe company’s vision for change.5 Increasingly, organisations are seeking out those who can best adapt to constant changes and communicate them up, down, diagonally, across, and outside the organisation. Having a mindset and skill set that supports this type of leadership and decision-making will further accelerate the success of enterprise-wide change management.


As organisations grapple with constant updates in the marketplace and business environment, it’s become even more important for their employees to keep up with new technologies, competition, and the socio-political landscape. People are having to cope with learning more while still doing their day-to-day jobs. As a result, organisations will increasingly rely on platforms or vendors to curate the learning experience for their employees. On-the-job learning won’t happen in the traditional way, with manuals and plug-and-play courses. Working professionals today are confronted with enough chaos in their work, so when it comes to learning and professional development, curated learning will be an asset rather than an added stress. Project leaders will see an increase of blended and flexible learning on demand – modern approaches that allow them to understand their external context, how it affects their day-to-day jobs, and immediately apply learnings to their work. Organisations will also seek out content that is relevant, applicable, and blends technical know-how with new concepts, such as adaptive leadership, influence, design thinking, and complex decision-making.


The population of project management-related roles – currently 65.9 million globally – is expected to grow 20% over the next eight years, with the main growth being in India and China. China specifically will make up over 50% of the global market opportunity over the next five years.6 As a result of this growth, we expect to see continued demand and need for project management capabilities to support these global changes. While we believe that traditional project management skills should be complemented by adaptive leadership approaches, in countries where there is still significant growth potential, it’s essential to build a solid foundation backed with technical rigour. Only when the technical groundwork is laid can organisations then introduce more adaptive and Agile approaches in tandem with project management.


No matter what products you’reselling, customer needs and expectations today have changed drastically. The supply chain of yesterday is no longer what it needs to be tomorrow. Customers expect new products to arrive faster, perform better, cost less than they used to, andbe easily exchanged. These increased demands have put pressure on supply chain management to run smoothly and efficiently. Further, where top-down leadership intersects with those actually delivering and returning the products, more adaptability and improved communication is essential. In order to bridge this gap while also continuing to meet customer expectations, the most successful organizations will need to combine traditional project management approaches with adaptive leadership to effectively navigate where the supply chain intersects the overall business strategy, the project work, and the people getting the work done.


1 Accenture, “Disruption Need Not Be an Enigma,” February 2018.

2, “Global IT Outsourcing Market 2018-2022,” May 2018.

3 Computerworld, “Microsoft Teams gains ground on Slack,” Matthew Finnegan, Dec. 11, 2018.

4 Forbes, “What The C-Suite Must Do To Make The Whole Firm Agile,” Steve Denning, Sept. 9, 2018.

5 Gallup, “How to Get People Behind a New Company Vision,” Vibhas Ratanjee, Aug. 14, 2018.

6 PMI (2017). Project Management Job Growth and Talent Gap 2017–2027.


Strategy X pic2Strategy Execution, the global authority in project leadership training, equips your people with the complete package of technical and leadership skills — the mindset, adaptability, and expertise to lead and execute projects in any context. With curricula in adaptive strategic execution, project management, business analysis, contract management, and more, Strategy Execution partners with your organisation to build skill sets and change mindsets .It’s time to declare a new standard of performance. Learn more at

To learn more about project leadership and how to equip your team withTo learn more about project leadership and how to equip your team withthese skills, contact us at +44 (0)20.3743.2910 or

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