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The Covid Pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges both for people and society the likes of which we haven’t seen since 1918. The ongoing Russia invasion of Ukraine has caused Europe’s largest refugee crisis since World War 2. Almost 6 million Ukrainians have fled their own country in search of safety.
It’s safe to say we are really living in a VUCA world – Volatile, Uncertain, Chaotic, and Ambiguous.
It is with this background in mind that we opened up our conference looking at future-proofing our careers by raising awareness of the ‘new normal’ : continuous change but at a greater pace.
Project Management Institute (PMI) released its Global Megatrends report earlier this year, an analysis of the global forces significantly impacting society and the project management professions today. This report helps project professionals understand the world’s rapid transformation and the global context in which we work so we can use projects to solve complex problems
These 6 Megatrends are Digital Disruption, Climate Crisis, Demographic Shifts, Economic Shifts, Labour Shortages, Civil, Civic and Equality Movements . Each of these Megatrends bring their own challenges and opportunities. I'd like to outline 3 key challenges and opportunities that I see.1. Shortage in Project Managers (PMs) PMI’s Talent Gap report predicts that the global economy will need another 25 million new project professionals by 2030. When the talent gap is analysed for Ireland it looks like we will need a minimum of an additional 15,000 PMs in Ireland by 2030. So very soon demand will exceed supply.We also need to take into account our aging population in Ireland which will see a further reduction in the workforce. As we emerge from Covid we are seeing workers re-thinking their work-life balance, which will further reduce supply. In tandem with all of this, there are the declining birth rates to consider. Last year was actually the first increase in birth rates since 2002 – I wonder why? Was this one of the positive outcomes of Covid? Unfortunately, we are still not there with Equality and Diversity in the workplace and we can expect ongoing positive pressure to address this issue which will put a different perspective on the professional mix of recruitment. Yes, we are getting better and trying to be more inclusive but recent statistics show that in Ireland only 3 in 8 CEOs are women. I’m only the 3rd female president for the Ireland Chapter of PMI (3 in 24 years). In the US they only recently appointed their first ever Black woman in history as Chief Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. Here in Ireland Kate Fahey appeared on the Late Late Show in February and at 18 years old believed to be the youngest and only female tower-crane operator in the country. It’s fair to say we still have a way to go on the equality front.
2. Increase project work due to Megatrends In a recent EY survey of CEOs, it was forecasted that a majority of the companies surveyed expect to expand through merger and acquisition activity in the coming year. And we know these transformations don’t happen by themselves so this will add to the demand for project related skills sets.In order to help avert the talent crisis, companies will need to further embrace technology. We can expect to see an increase in the use of Automation and Artificial Intelligence (which of course will need PM skills to implement) and not forgetting the implementation of No Code/Low Code platforms which will aim to leverage employees to drive further innovation in a more efficient and cost-effective manner. The Sustainability trend will also bring a new perspective for PM skill set as the topic of end of life and disposal of project outcomes becomes a must-do as part of the overall project. So, all in all good news for project professionals. There will be a substantial increase in project work as result from the materialisation of these Megatrends.
3. Adaptability / flexibility and resilience However, as changemakers, it is no longer sufficient for project professionals to just have the technical project management skills. Our world is becoming projectized and with that comes a need to break down any barriers to our profession. We need to look at our role as project professional through a wider lens. The phrase ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ is a misquote. The full phrase is “a jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one”. It was a compliment. One of the first records we have of the phrase being used was to describe a playwright who was always hanging around the theatres. He would help with the stage, the set, and the costumes. He would remember lines and help with directing. This so-called jack of all trades was in fact William Shakespeare. We as PM professionals need to become the ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ - our evolving talent triangle is about identifying the trades/skills that we need to master.
Broader knowledge leads to greater understanding and being better able to advise clients across multiple areas. It’s no longer adequate to specialise and turn a blind eye to other influences.
To truly make a difference we need to adopt a more strategic mindset, a higher level of flexibility, emotional intelligence and a better understanding of the global events that will affect our organisations and projects. If we are armed with this information and develop these skill sets, we can then maximise our effectiveness as leaders and provide further value to our organisations.
I mentioned earlier that the expectation is that the pace of change will be rapid, greater than what we have seen to-date, so we need to ensure we have the additional skills to ride the wave of change successfully. This may mean not only enhancing our skill sets in certain areas but also unlearning old habits and work practices that are no longer fit for purpose.
My goal for the attendees at the conference was threefold:
1. That you would leave the conference educated on the factors that can influence your organisations and projects
2. Come away armed with the knowledge of the additional skills that you will need to have to enhance your role in organisations and know about the support that we can provide to you as the Ireland Chapter of PMI
3. And that through networking and panel sessions you gained tangible takeaways to help you reimagine the project lifecycle and drive solutions
And from the feedback on the output, we think we delivered.
We started off the day looking at the Climate Crisis Megatrend, Stephen Prendiville , head of Sustainability EY and Jacinta Ryan, Director of Transformation ESB walked us through some of the challenges and opportunities. It was great to hear Jacinta talk about setting up transformation properly and the impact of not doing that and the first analogy of the Caterpillar and the butterfly was mentioned. “If you don’t set transformation up properly there is a risk you will just be a faster caterpillar and not a butterfly”. Stephen walked us through the challenges of ‘winning’ against the sustainability trend and encouraged us as project managers to be courageous and ‘speak out’ to spread the word on the sustainability agenda and be resolute and focus on our goals in this regard.
Kieran McCorry , the National Technology Officer in Microsoft Ireland, in Microsoft and Barry Lowry , Chief Information Officer Irish Government then spoke to us regarding the Digital Disruption Megatrend. I loved some of the take-away from these presentations from focusing on the outcome not the obstacles to the ‘advice’ from Kieran which was (a) get good people (b) explain your vision and (c) get out of their way.
Rob O’ Donohue from Gartner and Breda O’Toole from IDA then spoke to us about the Demographic Shifts and we were encouraged to
• Think and act differently (embrace the human deal)
• Adopt radical flexibility
• Champion personal growth by proactively coaching and mentoring
• Create deeper connections and show vulnerability and empathy
• Foster a shared purpose by reminding our teams why their work matters.
Then we came to the topic of the Economic Shift Megatrends. And while some would say that Economics would be a ‘heavy’ topic both Loretta O’Sullivan Group Chief Economist from Bank of Ireland and Pawel Fiedor Senior Economist in Central bank proved this was anything but. Their facts and figures where incredibly thought provoking and highlighted that these Megatrends are sometimes conflicts thus adding to the complexity. And we were given an insight to reverse stress testing for projects. This is something we will need to revisit in future events.
After a lovely networking lunch, we then reconvened and Ike Nwankwo a member of the Global PMI Board of Directors spoke to us around Powering the Future of Work through Projects. The PMI strategy of Making Ideas a Reality was spoken about, and we were asked to be prepared to ‘change into something different’ and we were reminded that as change professionals we must enhance our skills around
• Complex problem solving
• Getting things done at a faster pace
• Embracing transformation readiness
• Enhancing our agility mindset
We were then joined by Janet Smullen Associate Director and Head of Project Management Office (PMO) Recruitment in CPL technology and Dr. Orlaigh Quinn , Secretary General of Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, where we discussed the topic of Labour Shortages . This too was a really interesting discussion and we heard that the current approach to hiring talent is unsustainable. And that we needed to be looking at partnerships and forward planning with organisations. It was noted that remote working allows us to be move inclusive and fascinating to hear that some jobs that exist today will cease to exist over the next decade.
The conference was rounded off with our Keynote Speaker Niall Breslin whose key note was around finding peace in the chaos of the modern world. Points of note for me from Niall’s speech were the need for peer-to-peer social support and the true meaning of emotional intelligence. We were probed about why we feel the need to label everyone, and it was suggested that we should just ‘be’ and we were encouraged to be more mindful, which at its core is about being more present. It was great to just take time out to recognise that we as humans are flawed and, yes, life changes but it’s how we deal with these changes and flaws that matter. Finally, Niall gave us 5 tips to take away with a suggest that we practice for 21 to 28 days to help them become a habit:
1. Stay away from the moaning . Limit our exposure to toxic environments and try to understand what is it about that environment that is toxic to us. Be aware of any negativity bias you may have.
2. Be kind to yourself . In the hazy moment before we go to sleep say one good thing about ourselves. This has been shown to have positive outcomes for our wellbeing.
3. Start you day with gratitude . When we wake up, keep our eyes shut and think of five things in life that we are thankful for.
4. Train your brain on being mindful . Mindfulness is powerful and about being present. It was suggested that we should have 20 mindful moments in the day and then expand them to 3 or 5 mins.
5. Stop the judgement . Finally, it was suggested that we should stop judging ourselves.
All in all, it was a great National Conference 2022. Thanks to all of the hard work and dedication from the Ireland Chapter of PMI Board and especially our National Conference subcommittee. What a wonderful experience to see the idea of a National Conference turn into reality over these past months. It will be interesting to see how these Megatrends get incorporated into PMs’ daily work lives. A great discussion for next time. Until we meet again.
Jackie FaganPresident Ireland Chapter of PMI
SPEAKER PRESENTATIONS (PASSWORD PROTECTED)