Preparing for the exciting Passion of the Profession conference, PMI Denmark Chapter has asked one of conference speakers, Wagner Maxsen, to answer few questions about disruption in project management, passion and artificial intelligence.
Maxsen is as a former member of PMI's International Board of Directors, current member of PMI's International Strategy oversight committee and principal advisor for UNOPS. In addition to it he is a project, programme, portfolio management and corporate strategy specialist with over 25 years of experience.
PMI Denmark Chapter: What is your biggest passion of the profession?
Wagner Maxsen: Since the beginning of my career, I have always been fascinated by the very dynamic nature of projects and how they make sense when you understand your organization’s purpose. They exist to realize change in people’s lives. Change needed for solving problems, for taking on opportunities. Change for a better world. Project management is about being constantly faced by challenges, having to work with people to come up with ways to make things happen, to solve problems for others. It is a profession that does not know the word boredom, and which requires us to be always open to learn. I simply love what I do.
PMI Denmark Chapter: Artificial intelligence is a hot topic now and is a cause of disruption in project management. How do you think, are there any more causes that are less visible but that might have a similar (or even stronger) impact on disruption?
Wagner Maxsen: I think that something that is often neglected are the human aspects that enable these disruptions. In order to use artificial intelligence effectively, we need to have a favorable environment. We still live in a business world where the control structures dictate how we think and act.
These structures have a hard time embracing mistakes, even though we constantly hear that we need to collaborate, be innovative and be creative. Disruption is fundamentally about change, and it is us, people, who change (or not). Artificial intelligence and technology are out there, and they can provide us project management practitioners with effective tools and opportunities to innovate, but we do need to pay close attention to the human aspect and the organizational culture that have to allow us to disrupt.
PMI Denmark Chapter: How would you describe the tendencies in disruption in project management that are happening already now?
Wagner Maxsen: By 2020 it is predicted that 75% of the global population will be connected to the internet. Imagine the possibilities of this in a cloud environment, which allows us to deploy products almost everywhere, while remaining physically anywhere. In many of the disrupted industries, the mindset is of a start-up, so organizational agility is a pre-requisite. Project management needs to provide organizations with the practices and tools that are fit-for-purpose and allow for the effective creation and deployment of products and services. Rigid structures and bureaucratic processes will not do the job. And that also implies change in leadership because a mindset of learning from mistakes, anticipating the future and taking risks will be essential to succeed.
PMI Denmark Chapter: From your broad experience of working with organizations all over the world, have you experienced regional or local specifics in how disruption in PM is managed?
Wagner Maxsen: No matter where I go, the access to technology is there. What changes is the bandwidth that can be available to everyone. But anyone, anywhere can have a great idea and become a disruptor. As a matter of fact, we know that huge disruptors have come from a simple garage. Within organizations, what dictates how disruption can be created or how an external disruption impacts the environment is usually linked to the culture of the organization. Organizations which fight to preserve the status quo are either already facing a lot of challenges, or will soon face challenges because of the inertia.
PMI Denmark Chapter: With disruption in PM that is caused by global trends, what are the biggest changes that this might bring to PM professions?
Wagner Maxsen: Fundamentally it raises even more the need for organizational agility. It is not just about agile project management. It is not just for the IT industry or area. We will see a lot of disruption because of the ubiquitous access to better technology and the possibility to connect to literally billions of people, but that does not mean that disruption will be the norm for everything. Success is never guaranteed, so we must not be afraid to fail. We know that the secret is to try, fail and learn. We will need to break our own rules and get out of our comfort zones in order to become better and faster at delivering products and services. Disruption means more opportunities, and project management practitioners need to be ready for what could happen.