Next Generation Project Manager- Beyond Monitoring and Controlling

Next Generation Project Manager- Beyond Monitoring and Controlling

Next Generation Project Manager- Beyond Monitoring and Controlling
Next Generation Project Manager- Beyond Monitoring and Controlling


Traditionally, Project Managers have focused on controlling activities as a means to track milestones and deliverables. The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) defines the “monitoring and controlling” group as a set of processes required to track, review, and regulate progress and performance of the project, identify any areas in which changes to the plan are required, and initiate the corresponding changes. 

In today's business environment, which is built on networked collaboration, horizontal leadership and big data, project managers will be required to provide more value than just simply monitoring and controlling. Not to mention that the current technological revolution is putting pressure on occupations that share a predictable pattern of repetitive activities, the likes of which are possible to replicate through Machine Learning algorithms

It is estimated that over the coming decades, artificial intelligence (AI) will eradicate approximately 50% of the jobs that people in advanced economies are performing. And non-value activities that can be automated or replaced by software will disappear. Do Project Managers fall into this bucket? Do some of our activities run high risk to become easily automated?

If you think that Project Managers are immune to the automation of work, you are surely mistaken. And it’s not just low-wage employees that need to be worried. Highly skilled, knowledge-based employees in some sectors, including legal and accounting could see their jobs decimated in the next decade. Deloitte estimates that 39% of jobs in the legal sector could be automated in the next 10 years. Project managers must adapt to the changing technological and business landscape - and rise above this challenge. We must make a fundamental evolutionary step to develop competencies and skills that cannot be easily replaced by software or outsourced to AI - such such as coaching and servant leadership.

Coaching Brings out the Very Best in Teams and Individuals

Recently, I began a journey to become a coach within my organization, which included a day-long training deep-diving into the principles of coaching. I discovered how coaching can unleash a series of positive elements within individuals such as accountability, resourcefulness and trust. Coaching is a truly human endeavor, which relies on the art of posing question. Being a coach implies listening and asking questions to uncover the real drivers/motivations of your project team members. That is whether you are pushing them too hard or not enough, or what else they need to do better.

Not only is coaching a means to unleash a sense of resourcefulness, but also provide the team with the autonomy to resolve issues before escalating them up to you. This approach helps to free up your valuable time as a Project Manager and focus on higher level project management activities. This will also boost motivation of your team to feel empowered to make significant contributions and go-beyond their work package description. Doing coaching right will enable you to engage with your team members and pierce through into their motivational core, sparking them to unleash energy, creativity and accountability for driving project progress performance.

What impressed me the most about the coaching methodology was the primordial focus on deep-listening. Deep-listening means to hear every dimension of the other person, both what is said as well as what is implied. It means to hear the words and the emotions underneath them and to hear the general disposition and mood of the person: to hear all of it. This is an important skill for a Project Manager because we are at the center of the project's information flow, listening is one of our most important responsibilities.

Project managers encounter many challenges to listening due to, among other things, time constraints, hovering deadlines, and poor listening skills. However, project team performance will certainly rise when the project manager practices deep-listening enabling the team to better identify apparent and subtle issues, risks, and opportunities necessary when working within levels of uncertainty - and also conjure up innovative ways to resolve these points in a pro-active and resourceful manner.

Empowering via Servant Leadership

The servant leadership approach of “leading from behind” is a leadership style popularized by Ken Blanchard. Servant leaders are committed to serving others rather than achieving their own goals. They focus on enhancing and increasing teamwork and personal involvement. They enable a participative environment, empowering team members by sharing power and decision-making. In developing high performing teams, the goal for the servant leaders is to become less directive and more facilitative — giving the team more capability to self-manage.

The concept of servant leadership was first articulated in an essay by Robert K. Greenleaf called ‘The Servant as Leader’, published in 1970. In that essay, he goes on to describe it as follows:

The servant-leader is servant first…It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.

Even earlier than that philosophies of servant leadership emerged in ancient China, in particular Lao Tzu said said in 600 B.C.

The 21st century business landscape is marked by the rise of horizontal collaboration where networks of people disseminate information flow in all directions. Just as Command and Control, is becoming an outdated a management style (apart from the military) - project management must adapt more empowering and transparent approach. Maybe even an “empowering process group” is necessary in the PMBOK that stresses servant-leadership, self-organization and networked collaboration as a framework.

To transition into a more empowering approach Project Managers must provide the project team with a supportive space to take on an increased level of responsibility and authority over the work that they do, giving them the autonomy to plan and manage work, make their own decisions and solve their own problems. This concept can already be seen in scrum methodologies whereby teams are empowered to self-manage and self-organize their work. For example the Scrum Master is a Servant-Leader and by design does not have any organizational authority or power. A Scrum Master is not a master of the team, but rather one who encourages, enables, and energizes people to collaborate as a team and realize their full potential within the Scrum framework.


The Evolution towards Coaching and Servant Leadership

Although “monitoring and controlling” is still part of many modern day project management methodologies, the evolution of project management as both an art and a science requires the adaptation to the changing business and societal landscape.

We are living in time of artificial intelligence and automation, which requires a shift in focus towards coaching and servant leadership. These skills are unique and cannot be automated. The next generation of Project Managers must embody these competencies to rise above the challenges of the 21st century and continue providing value as drivers of performance and influencers of project success!

The Author :  Kamil Mroz

Kamil Mroz

About :
I am an award-winning project leader with director-level & site-leadership experience, strong communication skills and a strategic long-term view enabling the connection between strategy and operational execution.

I am driven and energized by coaching, mentoring and developing talents, while overcoming transversal organizational challenges. My experience in people management has enabled me to discover my passion for the leadership of intercultural, diverse and technical teams composed of both direct reports and cross-functional matrix project teams. I have been awarded global distinctions from both the largest PM organizations, IPMA and PMI for advanced project management expertise, strong team work, communication & leadership.

I owe my servant leadership approach to the time I have dedicated to social and volunteer-causes where I focused on several high-impact philanthropic projects in Europe. I am also proud to have also been the first ever student to be awarded the Young Alumni of the Year by the Faculty of Engineering from the University of Ottawa and I also Chair of the ISPE BeNeLux Steerco on Project Management.

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