by Matt McWha

Engineering an entrepreneurial project management environment

May 03, 2017
CareersIT LeadershipIT Skills

To unlock the skills of digital-ready project managers, engineer an environment that encourages and enables them

To consistently deliver business outcomes in a dynamic digital landscape where priorities, scope and urgency are in constant flux, IT teams need a project management workforce that can rapidly adapt to change. In response, many have made concentrated efforts to identify, attract and develop Entrepreneurial project managers. These Entrepreneurs are nearly twice as effective at delivering business outcomes than their low-performing peers because they possess a set of critical skills, including judgment, stakeholder partnership and learning agility.

In pursuit of Entrepreneurial project managers, IT teams have redesigned their hiring criteria, job descriptions and training curricula. Despite these changes, at the typical organization, less than 30 percent of project managers are Entrepreneurial.

+ Also on Network World: Reshaping the project manager role for the digital age +

To meet the current demand for digital-ready project managers, IT teams need to supplement their targeted hiring and development work by tapping into the Entrepreneurial potential of the IT department’s project management staff. To do so, they must create an environment that enables and encourages Entrepreneurial behaviors.

Research from CEB, now part of Gartner, shows that creating the right kind of project management environment can increase project manager effectiveness by an average of 8.5 percent. It can also boost project manager engagement by 12 percent, leading to less turnover and higher levels of willingness to go above and beyond in their roles.

To realize these benefits, IT leaders must engineer their project management environment around five key pillars:

  1. Business partner engagement: Driving business partner support for project manager performance
  2. Goal and reward clarity: Clarifying project management staff’s understanding of their role in achieving organizational goals
  3. Decision autonomy: Empowering project managers to independently make the decisions needed to drive project outcomes
  4. Project management community: Helping project staff build and connect to peer and manager networks
  5. Delivery support: Providing project managers with process and resource support for effortless project outcomes delivery

IT teams with a better track record of enabling these five pillars have a higher number of project managers who apply Entrepreneurial skills, resulting in more projects that deliver business outcomes. But many IT teams struggle to build an Entrepreneurial project management environment. According to CEB research, a majority of project managers report that they don’t receive adequate support for any of the five pillars.

Improving all five pillars of an Entrepreneurial environment at once is a daunting task, as most IT teams have very real limitations in terms of dollars and time. So, how can IT leaders prioritize the investments needed to engineer an Entrepreneurial project management environment?

Balance impact with opportunity

IT organizations get the most bang for their buck by balancing the potential impact each pillar can have on project manager effectiveness with how supported project managers feel.

For example, business partner engagement is the environment pillar with the highest potential impact on project manager effectiveness (a more than 9 percent increase), but it has the second lowest percentage of project managers who feel that their organization supports them effectively (26 percent). This makes it an attractive target for improvement.

Additionally, while decision autonomy has a smaller impact on project manager effectiveness, only 13 percent of project managers report feeling well supported by their department in this, making it another high-return opportunity.

Concentrate on early-career project managers

While an Entrepreneurial environment improves the effectiveness of all project managers, it leads to a higher-than-average improvement on the performance of early-career project managers (those with two to five years’ experience) who make up more than one-third of all project managers. As such, they represent the largest pool of potential Entrepreneurs for the average IT team.

Moreover, the pillars with the greatest impact on these early-career project managers’ performance are business partner engagement and decision autonomy, making it possible for IT teams to get even more leverage out of improvements in these two areas.

Fostering an Entrepreneurial project management environment can amplify the hidden potential of project managers and significantly boost their performance and engagement. By thoughtfully engineering this type of environment, IT teams can ensure they have project management staff who are both comfortable and able to take action in moments of high pressure or ambiguity—critical behaviors in the digital age.