by Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez

Is everything becoming a project?

Sep 26, 2017
CIODigital TransformationIT Governance

We are witnessing the rise of the project economy. Even the so-called gig economy is driven by projects.

We all have heard about the disruptions that are impacting our society and the business world: robotics, artificial intelligence, shared economy, blockchain, big data….

But, there is one extreme disruption affecting our world that media and academia have completely missed. For more than 100 years, organizations have been run and structured in a very similar way: hierarchical; in which power, budgets and resources are divided over departments, the so-called “silos.”

Management and management theory has always been focused on how to run and optimize (efficiency) the business best. Projects were an addition, but hardly ever a priority.

Paradigm shift

Today, due to the speed of change witnessed in the past decade, this model has become obsolete. The day-to-day running of a business will soon be carried out through automation and robots – and is already done so in many instances. Projects have become the essential part of any organization.

My prediction is that by 2025, senior leaders and managers will spend at least 60% of their time selecting, prioritizing and overseeing the execution of projects.

This massive disruption is not only impacting the way organizations are managed. Every aspect of our lives is becoming a set of projects. Some of the areas where I see this massive transformation happening are:

  • Education: When I did my high-school and university studies, teaching focused on theory and books. Learning was achieved by memorizing this hefty pile of material. Today, the leading educational systems, starting from early ages, apply the concept of projects to teach. Applying theories and experimenting through projects have proven to be a much better learning method, and will become the norm soon.
  • Careers: Not so long ago, professional careers were made in only one organization. Most of our parents worked for one company. Today, we all go through several companies. Careers now need to be approached as a set of projects in which we apply the learnings from previous jobs, companies, and industries while maintaining our development for the next (unknown) career move.
  • Democracy: The current crisis that we are seeing in political systems around the world has led political academics to propose new ways of governing countries. One of the most revolutionary experiments is being carried out in Ireland. The Irish Constitutional Convention (ICC) – established by the Irish government in 2012 – will address a number of potential constitutional reforms including whether to change the electoral system, reform the parliament, or reduce the voting age as well as important social and moral issues (including marriage equality, the role of women, and blasphemy). The interesting part is that each topic will be tackled through a project, with a clear deadline. One-third of its membership consisted of members of the Irish parliament, and two-thirds ordinary citizens selected at random from the Irish population.

One of the reasons behind this massive shift is that projects are the best, and the only model, that can exploit creativity and innovation on one side, as well as structure and discipline on the other.

But there are much more reasons: speed, agility, focus, value creation, diversity, teamwork, growth, development …

The impacts of the project economy will be far-reaching, so:

What are your thoughts on the project economy?

Has this massive disruption affected your organization, your career?