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The Agile Organization and Its People

Posted by Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin

Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin is editor-in-chief for PM Solutions Research, and the author, co-author and editor of over twenty books on project management, including the 2007 PMI Literature Award winner, The AMA Handbook of Project Management, Second Edition.

We are about to release our newest resarch study, The Adaptive Organization: A Benchmark of Changing Approaches to Project Management, just in time for the PMI Global Congress in Los Angleles. (Shameless self-promotion: Come to my presentation, Monday October 8 at 1 pm!)

There will be much more written and said about the various aspects of our findings, but for today, on the PM College side of our house, I wanted to showcase something that the report we will be releasing to participants this week touches on, but does not fully dive into: the role of leader and team member capability in shaping organizational agility.

In the study, we asked participants to evaluate their organizations' capability in delivering adaptive and hybrid projects in various ways. One aspect they evaluated was the capability of their personnel with agile, adaptive, and hybrid approaches. Not surprisingly, most organizations rated their capability highest with predictive, or traditional, project management. But for those who scored highly on organizational capability with the newer approaches, one difference stands out: the capability of their leaders and team members.

Here's a data snapshot:

  • More organizations with highly capable leaders report that hybrid approaches (78%) and adaptive approaches (51%) work well or very well.
  • Organizations with highly capable leaders report higher capability in using hybrid approaches and adaptive approaches  than average.
  • More organizations with highly capable team members report that hybrid approaches (80%) and adaptive approaches (50%) work well or very well.
  • Organizations with highly capable team members are more capable in using hybrid approaches and adaptive approaches than average.
  • 100% of high-performing organizations in the study train in adaptive approaches to PM.

The other side of this coin is seen in the top challenges reported by organizations in the study, with regard to implementing projects that use adaptive approaches:

  • Lack of skills/experience with adaptive approaches (67%)
  • Organizational culture at odds with adaptive approaches (56%)
  • Inconsistent processes and practices across teams (51%)
  • Organizational resistance to change (51%).

At this point in the history of project management, it should be no surprise that (adaptive) project problems are people problems. Luckily, there is something you can do about that.

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