This is a translation of the article „Projektleiter im Jahre 2030“ published on 19th January 2018 on this blog.
Does the project manager still exist in 2030 – as we know him today? The answer in a nutshell: No. The tasks of the project managers will change in the areas of leadership, organization and project implementation.
I was tempted to take part in the German Projektmagazin’s blog parade. Because on the one hand we are talking here about a term „project manager“ that has come under intense discussion (especially in the German speaking project manager community using terms project managers and project leaders slightly differentiated) and on the other hand about a period of time that is very long even for futurologists. The researchers do not believe to be capable to define changes in this time dimension.
The project manager as a term
Both parts of the word project manager are currently in great discussion as to whether they are meaningful or even contemporary. Projects as such like in BI unit of Otto are no longer seen as necessary. The (project) leader or project manager is not intended in the pure agile set. Here, leadership will be given an even more important focus than it already is today. Managers in the sense of controlling and directing will become less and less relevant due to the already visible developments.
It is problematic to give a future statement about the project manager in 2030, if already today the term as such no longer has the anchoring, as perhaps in the preceding decades. Let us dare an attempt.
Time as a yardstick
It’s 12 years till 2030. Appears long. If you think about what the world looked like 12 years ago, backwards from today 2018: There was no iPhone, no Android, no app stores, no Youtube, no Spotify, no Kindle, no Tablet, no digital full format sensor in a serial camera (to put my hobby into context). One recognizes it happens more in 10 or 12 years than one assumes. That’s why futurologists don’t calculate in years, but in weeks in order to emphasize the short-term nature and to evaluate future models and statements faster and make them more comparable. The futurologist assumes 50 weeks per year. How many weeks have passed since New Year’s Eve? Three. So less than 50 weeks to New Year. In these three weeks not many things happened according to the human feeling. In the best case, you have planned three weeks and reflected them three times. But the „cross-week“ tactical themes don’t seem significant. Nevertheless, project managers, Scrum Masters or one-man companies are working on the revolutionary aspects of the future. In the next 597 weeks until the year 2030.
What will the project environment look like in 500 weeks?
What will the world look like in 500 weeks? It seems pretty certain that in 500 weeks I and 70% of the German population will no longer own a car. In 500 weeks we won’t have any smartphones anymore. In 500 weeks we will no longer be using a supermarket. In 500 weeks we will produce more electricity in our households than we consume. In 500 weeks we will eat meat bred in laboratories. In 500 weeks we will receive ears for people from the 3D printer as medical spare parts. In 500 weeks robots will support the care of elderly people. In 500 weeks, 40% of the German population will have intelligent non-medical implants. In 500 weeks …
All these endeavors – let’s call them projects here for simplicity’s sake – are accompanied by people. This is not about generating ideas, but about implementing them. The fact that the creation, definition and implementation of ideas should be close to each other in terms of personnel is supported by some and criticized by others.
Requirements for today’s project managers in 2030
What impact does this have on me and all the other project managers from 2018? The visionary project manager who drives this one idea will no longer exist. We can already see today how complex the world of work and the world as such has become. This can no longer be united by one person. So it will have to be more and more a team effort. Which is good. This naturally has an effect on the aspect of leadership. We recognize trends already in agile beginnings which do not represent however yet the end of the road. The following generations have and demand a different attitude to work. I have experienced this many times myself and already talk like my grandfathers („The young people today“). But also this change is good, because …
„No change, no development.“
Birgit Ramlow (*1948), employee and hobby aphorist
Transformation vs. Revolution
And now a much criticized term from the business economics: Transformation. When I think in weeks and design endeavors in a manageable time frame, there are transformation aspects. It is revolutionary when we experience a complete technological or paradigm shift. The smartphone was not a revolution, but a courageous and creative combination of available technologies. The push came somewhat delayed by the apps. But even these are not a classic revolution, but a further development on another platform and therefore used by more users. Why was the smartphone ultimately perceived as revolutionary and has this outward appearance? Well, my thesis is that managers of competitors like Nokia and Siemens weren’t brave enough and didn’t listen to the market. Imagination and creativity were not lacking. Because carmakers are also being predicted the whole development today and the reactions to it are, in my opinion, too hesitant. In development periods of 4 years per real model change, i.e. 200 weeks, you can no longer act today. So what can we deduce from this for the project manager?
He will work a lot in transformation projects and will contribute to the revolution by quickly placing new projects with courageous and fast acting managers.
Company management or committees in 2030
The biggest changes will certainly be one level higher in the hierarchy (if you want to talk about it at all – today at least one level higher) required at the portfolio board, at the product owners or however a company implements strategic decision making for itself. At Otto in the product area, in the agile environment by the product owner – as a representative for the management or the portfolio board in classical project management. These committees will certainly have to meet the defined requirements even more than in my article, written in 2016, in order to enable the timing between the transformations to revolutions. And let’s be honest, in the ~ 60 weeks since this article was written, the claim is still not fulfilled. So there is a need for action.
Different demands on the project managers
Will the development depend on the type of project?
There will no longer be a project manager who can manage projects universally in all industries and project types. At least today’s challenging attitude will be less and less correct.
In the area of software development, agile approaches and hybrid mix forms will develop for large programs. A design of these hybrid forms is material for another blog post.
Investment projects will continue to be similarly organized as today. And thus also the role and tasks of the project manager. Even if today’s examples, such as Berlin Airport, are not promising.
The young project manager in 2030
But what about the young project manager who will manage projects for the first time in 2030? He starts with a handicap. Because he himself, but also his IT architects and other colleagues, will not have experienced any more „journeyman years“ here in Germany, since all „journeyman activities“ were already relocated from the last century nearshore or offshore in the 1990s. It will no longer be so easy to start a career as a project manager, however shaped it may be. This can be observed today in environments that have changed for some time, such as the textile industry. Here in Germany today there are often problems to find qualified seamstresses for the sample collection. For this reason, companies themselves have to relocate business-critical areas such as design and sample collection abroad. This will also be the case with the project managers of the future. In the virtual world, with the supporting technologies, it will always be easy to carry out projects here in Germany. But also the proximity to the customer is less and less important due to the virtual support technologies. This means that in 2030 it will also be possible to carry out projects completely from a remote location (including project managers) without missing customer proximity in Germany.