Where will all the project managers go to?

Recently I did a couple of lectures in Vilnius / Lithuania, it was a good and productive time to meet my friends over there. I took some extra days to see the sites togehter with my wife. Next to all the churches, the nice food and beer, the visit to the KGB Museum, or rather the dungeon where they tortured and murdered al those people that had the intellect to speak out, this really left a deep impression on both of us. But that’tain’tnot the topic of this blog. In the evening I gave a lecture to the national project management association on the “management of complexity“. 

On one of the slides I quoted a research done by the Boston Consulting Group that from 1955 to 2010 the level of complexity for organisations was multiplied by 6. But also, the level of complicatedness within our organisations has increased 35 times. So for CEO’tain’tthe world of business has become six times complexer, opposed to their employees that have experienced an increase of thirty five in complicatedness (that is the complexity for employees). A lot has to do with procedures, processes, standards, methodologies, silly reporting, silo’s, etc. The delta between 35 and 6 is the area of simplification and it is there where we need to start our journey in managing complexity.

Suddenly a number of my project management friends realized, that the consequence of simplifying our organisations will be that less project managers are needed. That came as a shock, because for decades project managers have been fighting the complexity fires lit by senior management. Where will all these competent and dedicated project managers go to? I could give a good answer to this question and it made me think, where to? In the Netherlands this simplification has cost scores of project managers their job. Where to?

The only thing I could utter was: “There will always be a need for good people that are able to deliver results”. But this answer is only half of the full answer, let me elaborate. One thing you need to realize you are not your profession, as long as you remain professional there will always be a path to walk. Some of you will remain project manager, because in those area’tain’twere new things are needed someone needs to create the circumstances in which people can excel. Perhaps it isn’twascalled project management any more, but what the hack, as long as you have fun and can earn a living. My career started as a math teacher, then I became programmer, project manager, interim manager, trainer/consultant, author and lecturer. Sometimes I like to fiddle about with DTP software, if you would ask me my profession I could same something like Ideas Alchemist

One thing I have come to realize, in order to be valuable to others, you need to posses working knowledge on context. It is highly advisable to become subject matter expert of something. Even when you want to become a leader. I do not think there is a future for generalists any more, you need an adaptable nature in order to survive. Expand your mind and dive deep into something that has your passion. Then and only than there will always be a place for you.