Mida on uut projektijuhtimises?

Projektijuhtimise aastakonverentsi Baltic PMDays 2018 (27.-28.09, www.pmdays.eu) eel rääkisime Teva Baltics juhatuse esimehe ja Balti regiooni juhi Dr. Jānis Meikšāns-iga, ühe konverentsi peakõnelejaga, et uurida millised moodsad trendid on PM maailmas.  Tal on 20 aastat töökogemust farmaatsiatööstuses turunduse ja müügi ning ravimite turustamisega tegelevates ettevõtetes, ettevõtte juhtimise kogemus Baltimaades, SRÜs ja Põhjamaades ja äri alustamisega seitsmel areneval turul.

Küsitles Vsevolod Boikov, Baltic PMDays 2018 poolne korraldaja.

What’s new in Project Management in 2018? What are expectations from Project Management as profession?

To answer these two questions, firstly, we would have to look at the semantics to understand, what exactly project management is vs. traditional or normal business management.

Project management is a quite old concept, which developed in Industrial era in the 19th century. The difference between project management and traditional business is that with project management we understand something that is time-bounded, i.e., it has a definite beginning and a definite end. For instance, a person has to accomplish something in two months’ or two years’ time but with a clear start and a clear end point. In contrast, the assumption about the traditional business is that it is permanent and repeating itself routinely; it has a beginning, obviously, but it continues endlessly.

This was probably true more than 100 years ago, however, nowadays the situation has changed, so we have to understand, what exactly has changed and still continues to change, to have a better insight of the place of project management today.

If we would imagine classical project management, we could think of it as building of a house – everyone knows that you have to start from the foundations, then the house itself and in the end – roof – and it is done. Whereas if we would look at traditional business today, most probably we wouldn’t see that the assumption about the routine self-repeating processes, which create the same value each repetitive cycle, still works.

Frankly, if I am looking at the business field, which I am representing, – biotechnologies, pharmaceuticals, health care in general – I can definitely see that this assumption doesn’t work anymore. In fact, it would be hard for me name any of industries, where it still works. Why? The reason is very simple – we are living in the Post-industrial era. Therefore, the classical laws, which were in force more than 100 years ago, are, unfortunately, dying out together with the Industrial era. In the Post-industrial society time is more compressed and each process has a much shorter life-cycle. Moreover, the next cycle does not repeat the previous one and is rather unique.

From this perspective we could say that everything around us is becoming a project, because it is time-bounded in relatively short cycles. Furthermore, it is limited by resources, tasks, products or processes. Going back to the question about project management and project management as a profession, we could even say that actually today everybody is a project manager.  Majority of people most probably would disagree on this, as they could never imagine that they also are project managers, but let me give you an example from everyday life. Yesterday was the first day of school year (September 3 this year) and those families, who have school-age children, prepared them for school, so they have to prepare the children, to buy all necessary books and tools with limited financial and time resources, as by the first school day everything already must be completed. Hence one has to be a project manager, even if he/she is a stay-at-home dad or mom, even if he/she doesn’t have a specific education.

Of course, this also rings true for industries, since they are changing dramatically, sometimes even disruptively. This change is caused by, first of all, new technologies, new way of information flow and interaction between people. To make long story short, we could say that today everything is project management. The classical business does not exist anymore. We could say that each of us is a project manager and it doesn’t even matter, whether you have a diploma, which proves your project manager’s education, or not. Anyways you do not really have a choice, since, in order to live your life well, you have to manage it step-by-step, cycle by cycle.

What are you going to talk about during Baltic Project Management Days 2018?

Taking into account the previously mentioned notion that the project management actually has infiltrated all of the layers, societies, and industries in this new world, where Industrial era has died and the Post-industrial society has emerged, some roles or stakeholders are dramatically changing. Therefore one of things I would like to talk about is the role of people in the processes.

In the beginning of project management or Industrial era a person was assumed as a part of an engine, as a puzzle piece of a larger picture, which is the project itself. It was important to find the right person with the right skills and to put the person in the right place. Every piece of the puzzle had to work perfectly, the engine had to be ticking like a Swiss watch, if the project was set up in a correct way.

Nowadays, it doesn’t work like that. People have a much greater role in projects – first of all, nobody should assume that a person is only like a piece of puzzle or a screw in a big mechanism. Each person has his/her own agenda, own engagement motives, own way of interacting with other businesses and own style of collaboration. As an illustration of this, the role of talent is bigger than ever, since the people who are well prepared for these new circumstances, the Post-industrial era, who are open-minded, who have the cultural intelligence, necessary skills and maybe even some congenital features, they are so much better prepared for this new type of project management that, if you find such a person, he/she is like a jewel in the company’s crown.  This kind of person is of a higher importance than a specific task performer in a specific position, as this person could serve as a driving force to the whole company.

To be specific, if you find such a jewel, I would say that you should move the function, where this jewel is located, even to another country. For example, if we see that in Estonia we have a particular talent, we would, perhaps, close the function in Lithuania or Latvia, and move this function to Estonia, where this talent is, and vice versa. This is principally new and different from before. The person, personality, talent is much more important than the whole mechanism, the whole project. Consequently also the attitude and collaboration have changed.

Another thing to mention is engagement – you cannot buy engagement. There has been a lot of discussion regarding, what fringe benefits employer has to offer for employees. In my opinion you can offer any fringe benefits you wish but that would not guarantee engagement. Therefore part of my speech will be dedicated also to employee engagement, because I believe that it is an extremely important factor nowadays.

One more thing I would like to stress is that the projects themselves are becoming very complex. New stakeholders are appearing on the stage, interaction between the stakeholders and their motivations are different, intercultural clashes, international interests and a lot of many other things, which we have to take into consideration, when dealing with projects. Therefore the process is getting extremely complicated. There is this natural willingness from managers to make very complex project descriptions and plans, for instance, 100 pages of plans of how to execute the project with a lot of tables and figures. My understanding is that it’s not helping very much. We use the expression VUCA world, which came from the US military. VUCA stands for – volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. The world is constantly changing and a very complex project management is actually a killer, because it does not guarantee a successful execution of the project. The more complex the plan, the less hope for an excellent execution.

I do believe in a simple plan and simple strategies, which are easy to explain in a short time frame, even for very complex tasks, since we have to determine only the main things in this ever changing modern world environment. It is not possible by definition to determine everything, as changes come and become permanent so quickly, that the moment when we finally finish the 100-page plan is already too late. The plan has already become too old to be valid. That is why it is much better to clearly define the main things and leave a lot of open space for talented people, who could find the right solution at the moment of execution.

In the end I would like to ask a provocative question – is the code of success written in the corporate DNA? The question is – are we destined to succeed or doomed to failure, when we have a new project or corporation? In my speech I will try to compare this with biotechnologies, where we are interfering in the DNAs of living organisms, as corporations today are in a way similar to living organisms. Living organisms have a DNA; the corporations have it as well. Traditionally the DNA of a corporation is thought to be the culture of the corporation. The role of the culture is higher than ever and is a very integral part of the way corporations are acting in the society.  From this aspect we could say that success or failure is written in the DNA of a corporation. And just to keep a bit of intrigue for my keynote speech and the conclusion of it I will not elaborate too much on this.

What are the differences in PM profession in Baltic States – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania?

I would say that there are almost no differences, since nowadays the nationality is hardly recognizable. For instance, truck drivers are more or less the same in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the same goes for medical doctors. Moreover, everybody now speaks English, so there are even no language issues. In a way, it is a bit sad, but it is the outcome of the modern world.

One factor I could mention is that Baltic countries are very small, Estonia particularly, therefore we could see one pattern – the smaller the country, the more generalists we see and less specialists and vice versa. We could say that we have more chiefs than Indians in the tribe but this is just because of the country size.

Projects are inevitable part of modern business management, why people tend to talk more of its different components – team management, change management, risk management?

The answer is actually quite simple; since the classical project management is dying, people find it more suitable to speak about team management, change management and risk management – elements, which, of course, are important. I guess it is vital to see that project management as a classical, industrial approach is dying, not the project management as a wider, philosophical concept, which is doing just the opposite by striving and integrating in all levels of society.

Where do you see project management in 2025? What sorts of project will be typical in the future? Do you see this profession evolve or disappear?

As I already mentioned, the classical project management is dying. But project management as such is alive more than ever, because in the Post-industrial era all life consists of small projects in all aspects and everything is interlinked.  And for sure this will continue also in the future.

Regarding the classical, industrial, “licensed” profession – I think that the value of that will decrease, however, but the essence of the project management will definitely stay the same or even increase, as everybody will be doing project management, although, maybe not everybody will understand that they are doing it.