No matter what stage you’re at in your career, or which profession you work in, you will certainly have been involved in projects — some of them successful, others less so. Until recently, project management has been outside the spotlight of key competencies organizations would focus on developing. In this decade, however, the world will see more projects than ever. Project-based work is the engine that drives progress and gives work meaning. Welcome to the project economy.

A recent study from McKinsey on the most critical skills organizations need to develop post-Covid-19 confirmed that project management has become a core competency, alongside innovation, strategy and entrepreneurship. Despite this great outlook, project performance rates continue to be appalling, with approximately 30% of projects being successful on average.

There are many reasons that explain this poor performance, with outdated project management methods and lack of project management competencies as two of the main causes.

The project management methods in use today were designed for a world where operations were the primary focus and projects were a small fraction of an organization’s activities. In the project economy, projects become the primary unit of work, while operations requires fewer resources to be carried out. The current project management methods, tools and techniques have started to be reinvented for the new reality. Refreshing methods and adapting them to current and future needs and simplifying tools are important steps in that direction.

Some of these new methods are:

  • The Project Canvas, a simplified framework for everyone to understand the fundamentals of projects.
  • A hybrid approach to implementation, which embraces both waterfall and agile methods.
  • The extension of the traditional project life cycle, to include innovation and value creation.

In a world with an ever-growing number of projects, the demand for people who can effectively manage projects is also increasing. Although people pick up some of these skills by intuition and practice, the reality is that the core competencies of project management require dedicated training.

The same gap applies to effective project sponsorship. Most executives have never been trained in these essential skills and have built their project sponsorship competencies on the job.

Training professionals have a great opportunity to become strategic partners and advocates to build these project management competencies across the entire organization.

Training should be developed to include:

  1. Refreshed project management training for every employee, combining traditional concepts with agile project management concepts, focusing on team collaboration and value creation.
  2. Specific training for senior leaders about their crucial role not only as project sponsors but also in selecting, prioritizing and allocating resources to projects.
  3. Special training for advanced project managers, change managers and other top talent. These professionals need to develop new competencies to drive the organization into the future.

In the past, one of the pitfalls of teaching project management was that the content was too scientific and dry, and relevant only for the most technical project managers. The new approach requires much more hands-on, simplified and inspirational content. In the end, the goal is to build a new culture with more skilled individuals.

Imagine the benefits for organizations if training could increase the poor project success rate. The impact could be almost immediate, with additional fiscal, social and educational benefits. There is no doubt that these are exciting times for the project management world.