In the evolving landscape of project management, the spotlight often shines brightest on technical prowess and methodological expertise. Yet, as we navigate through the complexities of modern projects, it becomes increasingly clear that the true bedrock of project success lies not just in the ‘what’ and ‘how’ but significantly in the ‘who.’ At Luminate, our experience has taught us that the core competencies of a project manager transcend the conventional boundaries of technical knowledge. We believe a PM must demonstrate emotional intelligence (EQ) in every decision they make, be readily adaptable (AQ), and have an innate ability to foster team chemistry.
Let’s understand the magic
Recent research, based on a survey of 150 members of the Australian Institute of Project Management, has pinpointed 15 critical success factors for projects, with project understanding and competent project team ranking as the most pivotal. This, collaborated with our own findings at Luminate, places a pronounced emphasis on what we like to call the ‘5% of magic‘ – those intangible and often innate qualities that set apart the exceptional PM from the merely competent. This ‘magic’ isn’t something that can be easily quantified or taught through traditional project management courses; rather, it’s woven into the fabric of one’s professional demeanour, reflecting a deep-seated understanding of human dynamics, and an unwavering commitment to the collective vision.
At the heart of this discussion lies the undeniable truth that project success is inextricably linked to the competence of the PM. At its core it is about the ability to read the room, to inspire and motivate, to anticipate and pivot, and to do so with a grace and resilience that will instil confidence in the project team and with the project sponsor. All the while driving progress to achieve the project’s goals.
Our observations and experiences suggest that projects led by PMs who exhibit a high EQ and AQ not only achieve their intended outcomes more consistently, but also foster a project environment that is dynamic, innovative, and resilient in the face of adversity.
People make projects successful, not methodologies
Moreover, the role of a PM extends beyond mere leadership and into the realm of trusted advisors. In all projects today, where change is the only constant, the ability of a PM to act as a steadfast beacon of adaptability and emotional intelligence becomes not just advantageous, but essential. It’s important to remember that the keystone of project success lies not in the rigid frameworks of methodology, but in the people.
The future of project management lies in our ability to recognise and value the human competencies that truly drive success. Our PMs are individuals who embody these competencies. They bring to the table not just a wealth of technical knowledge but a profound ability to connect, adapt, and lead with empathy and insight.
Many of you will have heard me say many a time – if you can’t change the people… change the people. Never is this mantra more true than for project rescue engagements. We’re often called in to provide an independent evaluation (we call it a Fitness Test) of derailed projects. Typically, we find that the incumbent PM is either not well aligned to the level of project complexity being faced, or equally as impacting, does not have the requisite level of EQ to form trusted relationships with stakeholders. Quite simply, the PM who got your project into a mess, is not going to be best placed to get you out of it!
At Luminate, we’re committed to embracing this broader vision of project management competence, fostering an environment where technical acuity meets human insight. We can hit the ground running, addressing challenges that are transformed into opportunities, and where every project becomes a testament to the transformative power of exceptional leadership.
If you’d like to know more about how we deliver complicated projects in an uncomplicated way, call Jarrod on 021 528167 or email him on [email protected].
At Luminate we focus on attracting, nurturing and retaining talent who demonstrate soft skills of EQ and AQ (Adaptability). The recent Pulse of the Profession 2023 report from the PMI delves further into these, referring to them as ‘Power Skills’. We refer to it as the ‘5% of magic’ that our project managers bring to our customers. It’s not a trait that can be easily coached. It’s inherent. It’s in their DNA. And it’s a critical requirement for our PMs.
The very best PMs have these skills in spades, on top of the entry requirement of having a solid foundation of technical skills (otherwise known as IQ or smarts). At Luminate we take IQ as a given. You have to be smart to be part of our team. But that’s simply the invitation to the party. The real magic happens when the party gets underway.
What the PMI describes so well in its report is that these Power Skills allow PMs to align their projects to organisational objectives and provide the singular focus on a common North Star for their delivery teams. PMI’s research reveals that 92% of their respondents agreed that Power Skills help them work smarter. Furthermore, organisations that place a priority on Power Skills have higher rates of project management maturity, benefits realisation management and organisational agility.
Companies who understand the importance of these soft skills and place a value on the advantage they bring, stand to realise significant uplift in capability maturity (skill & will), project performance and delivery of promised benefits.
In the ever-evolving landscape of project management, the emphasis has significantly shifted beyond mere technical know-how. As you know, we’ve always championed EQ over IQ and more recently, AQ as the differentiator of a project manager’s abilities.
The PMI’s Pulse of the Profession 2023 report illuminates this shift, introducing ‘power skills’ – a fusion of emotional intelligence (EQ) and adaptability quotient (AQ). At Luminate, we recognise that while a high IQ opens doors, the real transformative impact is made when power skills come into play.
Here are my five key insights from analysing the report:
- Impact of power skills: Organisations prioritising power skills like adaptability and emotional intelligence see more project success, with reduced scope creep and financial losses.
- Value of power skills: 92% of project professionals recognise the importance of power skills for effective work, indicating widespread acknowledgement across industries.
- Critical power skills: Key skills include communication, problem-solving, collaborative leadership and strategic thinking, essential for successful project management.
- Industry focus: Information technology, manufacturing, energy and telecommunications prioritise power skills more than sectors like government and healthcare.
- Combining skills for success: A balance of power and technical skills enhances project management, improving performance and adapting to market changes.
Aligning with the organisational ethos
PMI’s findings underscore the crucial role of power skills in aligning project initiatives with the larger organisational vision. An impressive 92% of professionals surveyed acknowledged that power skills contribute to more efficient and smarter work practices. This alignment transcends the conventional confines of deadlines and budget, steering projects to resonate with and contribute significantly to the overarching goals of the organisation.
The strategic advantage of power skills
In today’s competitive market, organisations prioritising power skills are witnessing enhanced levels of project management maturity and agility. Leading this trend, Luminate’s strategy has always been to attract and develop talent rich in these power skills. Our approach resonates with the insights from both PMI and PwC’s collaborative study on Narrowing the Talent Gap, highlighting the distinctive ‘5% of magic’ that our project managers bring to their roles.
Power skills are innate and indispensable
This ‘5% of magic’ is not a trait that can be fostered through training alone. It is innate, woven into the fabric of our project managers’ DNA. Luminate’s recruitment and development strategies are centred around identifying and nurturing this natural ability to adeptly navigate the intricacies of project management, blending empathy, adaptability and strategic vision.
At Luminate, we don’t just recognise the importance of Power Skills; we actively cultivate an environment conducive to their growth. We place equal emphasis on EQ and AQ as on IQ, ensuring that our project managers are not only technically adept but also emotionally intelligent and highly adaptable. This balanced approach has been pivotal in enhancing our project delivery capabilities, consistently exceeding client expectations.
Transforming obstacles into opportunities
We believe in converting challenges into opportunities for growth and innovation. Our project managers are trained to view change not as an impediment but as a catalyst for development. This paradigm shift is essential in the current fast-paced business milieu, where adapting is key to maintaining relevance and achieving success.
Looking ahead, the interplay between power skills and technological advancements is set to become increasingly vital. As AI and automation redefine the project management landscape, the human elements of connection, empathy and adaptability remain indispensable. Luminate is at the forefront of this evolution, seamlessly integrating cutting-edge technology with the unique human skills of our project managers.
At Luminate, EQ and AQ are more than mere buzzwords; they are fundamental to our project management ethos. These power skills distinguish our team, empowering us to navigate the complexities of modern project management with an unmatched blend of intelligence, empathy and adaptability. By embracing these skills, we continue to set industry benchmarks, delivering exceptional value to our clients and stakeholders.
Most of us are familiar with the terms IQ (Intelligence Quotient) and EQ (Emotional Quotient) – traits that measure intelligence and interpersonal skills. For a long time, I’ve bandied about EQ trumping IQ with respect to success in project management. Empathy and communication win over frameworks, methodologies and expert-in-a-day courses.
But move over EQ, there’s a new Q in town, one that holds the key to true success. Meet the Adaptability Quotient (AQ). In an era characterised by constant change and unpredictability, having a high AQ is becoming more essential than ever before. It all comes down to how well we can adapt to shifting landscapes and evolving challenges. In this blog, I will delve into why project managers need to prioritise developing their AQ in order to stay ahead of the game.
What exactly is AQ, and why is it gaining such prominence?
AQ refers to an individual’s ability to adapt and thrive in an ever-changing work environment. With the rapid advancements in technology and the increasing complexity of projects across industries, employers are now realising the importance of team members who can navigate uncertainty with ease.
What sets AQ apart from other competencies is its focus on agility and flexibility. Individuals not only need to embrace change but also exhibit resilience when facing setbacks or unexpected obstacles. In today’s fast-paced world, where disruptive forces can completely upend established industries overnight, having people with a high AQ is considered essential for companies to stay competitive.
Another reason why AQ is gaining prominence is its potential for growth. Unlike IQ and EQ, which some argue are fixed traits that cannot be significantly improved upon, AQ can be developed over time through learning and intentional practice. Investing in training programmes that focus on enhancing adaptability skills can lead to substantial benefits for both individuals and businesses alike. By fostering an organisational culture that values adaptable thinking and encourages continuous learning, companies can create an environment where innovation thrives.
The changing landscape
Our world is in a constant state of flux, and technology is advancing at an exponential rate. In project management, this translates to a need to pivot and adapt faster than ever before.
We may soon see AQ used as a metric in recruitment, focusing on the candidate’s ‘fit’ within an organisation. Successful project managers will be proactive and understand the dynamics at play, engaging people to keep projects on track. No team needs a brilliant xxxxhead!
Champions of change
AQ assesses an individual’s capacity to handle change, their openness to new ideas, and their willingness to challenge the status quo. Those with high AQ exhibit a remarkable ability to adapt to uncertainty, embrace innovation, and thrive in dynamic environments. These are individuals who can champion change. For businesses to thrive they will seek people with a balanced triad of quotients – IQ, EQ, and AQ. Individuals that not only possess the technical skills required for the job but also excel in connecting with others and exhibit the right mindset, drive, and motivation. It’s the harmonious synergy of these quotients that empowers individuals to achieve successful results.
Natalie Fratto, a Vice-President at Goldman Sachs New York, emphasises that AQ goes beyond the capacity to absorb new information. It involves the ability to discern relevance, unlearn obsolete knowledge, overcome challenges, and consciously make an effort to change. Flexibility, curiosity, courage, resilience, and problem-solving skills all play a part in AQ.
Embracing adaptability as a necessity
Harvard Business Review is predicting AQ is poised to become the “new competitive advantage.” Both companies and individuals must acknowledge that adaptability is not just a desirable trait; it’s an absolute necessity.
Failing to adapt can result in lost opportunities and, in extreme cases, even bankruptcy. We’ve witnessed this scenario unfold with companies like Blockbuster, Kodak, and BlackBerry, all of which failed to adapt and faced dire consequences. Similarly, individuals must embrace change to remain relevant and successful in their personal and professional lives.
Turning challenges into opportunities
The key to embracing AQ is transforming challenges into opportunities. Instead of fearing or resisting change, view it as a chance for personal and professional growth and development. As Amy Edmondson, Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School points out, it’s the breakneck speed of workplace change that will make AQ more valuable than IQ. She says: “Learning to learn is mission critical. The ability to learn, change, grow, experiment will become far more important than subject expertise.”
The transformative influence of AQ in project management
The influence of AQ in project management is nothing short of transformative. In a period characterised by perpetual change and unpredictable variables, project managers endowed with a high AQ are poised to excel in this dynamic landscape. Their unique capacity to swiftly adapt to ever-evolving landscapes, emerging technologies, and shifting project demands is a game-changer.
These high AQ project managers embody resilience when confronted with setbacks or unforeseen obstacles, ensuring that projects maintain their course even amidst turbulence. AQ introduces an entirely new dimension to project management, empowering teams to pivot and innovate rapidly.
I have a confession to make. I was tempted to take a shortcut and let AI do the heavy lifting for this blog. With the monthly deadline looming, I thought it would be a clever move to enlist the help of algorithms. However, what I quickly discovered is that while AI can deliver the basic structure, it falls short when it comes to capturing the emotional connection and interpretation that I was looking for. Sure, this blog may not be a Pulitzer Prize piece, but you get the idea.
This experience got me thinking about the realm of AI in project management, where Gartner’s research indicates that AI is making strides in transforming the landscape, predicting that by 2030, 80% of project management tasks will be run by AI.
While AI undoubtedly offers immense time saving benefits, it can never replace the indispensability of good project managers. In fact, it is precisely in this age of AI that individuals with strong interpersonal skills will rise to the top.
EQ trumps IQ in the age of AI
Showing control and confidence when faced with challenges are crucial skills displayed by a PM with high EQ. They can demonstrate how to calmly diffuse emotions with facts, ensuring all stakeholders are aligned on the common project goal. And when you watch a team led by someone like this – they tend to reflect the PM’s approach to pressure. The positive bearing this can have on a project is hard to overstate.
This distinctive mix of interpersonal skills and leadership style makes the PM stand poised to harness the full potential of AI while preserving that crucial human connection that propels project success.
Therefore, AI’s integration into IT project management has become a boon for emotionally intelligent project managers. Building trust and fostering collaboration are second nature to an EQ project manager. By blending the analytical capabilities of AI with their exceptional communication skills, this enables them to nurture deeper connections with stakeholders, and unlock the true potential of their teams.
Embrace the AI revolution
AI will give project managers the ability to save time. Automation of repetitive processes like progress tracking and risk analysis will provide real-time information sharing, document collaboration and effortless communication. An EQ project manager will embrace these invaluable insights to make data-driven decisions, and formulate strategies that align with both project objectives and the emotional needs of the team.
An EQ project manager who can leverage this technology to communicate consistently and timely to all stakeholders, will be a critical differentiator when challenges are faced and tough decisions need to be made.
These skills are particularly valuable in coaching and training project teams to embrace the benefits of AI tools, and navigate any new complexities that are required to integrate into existing processes.
People make projects successful, not methodologies
The human touch remains at the core of project success and the significance of emotionally intelligent project managers cannot be underestimated. PMs will play a pivotal role in the transition of using AI tools, bridging the gap between cutting-edge technology and human collaboration, thus paving the way for extraordinary outcomes.
At Luminate we’ll continue to embrace AI, as we can only see the benefits of tools like this and it frees up more time to focus on the top 20% of what really drives project success.
You’re on holiday relaxing with your family when you spot a jigsaw puzzle on the shelf. Eager to dive in, you grab the box and… oh no, it’s a Wasgij. Who on earth designed this mind-boggling enigma? Unlike a ‘normal’ puzzle, you can’t simply toss the pieces together because you have no idea what the result is supposed to look like.
In project management, a Wasgij puzzle is a great analogy. Winging it will cost you time and patience, and you might throw in the towel. But figuring out a game plan and using the clues to paint a clear picture will significantly improve your project success rate. It’s the same logic for project benefits.
Project mobilisation determines the actions and strategies needed to achieve a project’s core benefits. It focuses on creating milestone plans, structures, governance arrangements and processes to deliver on those benefit promises. But realising project success – and therefore delivering business value through benefits realisation – can be easier said than done. So, here’s what you need to keep in mind:
1. Talk about benefits with the business
Unfortunately, the word ‘benefit’ might not mean the same thing to your business leaders as it does to you. So, ditch the jargon and speak their language. It’s about capturing their attention and showing them how your project will deliver tangible benefits. In other words, connect the dots between your project and their bottom line. Trust me – they’ll perk up when they see the link between project benefits and their performance bonus..
2. From day one, measure and track project benefits
If you wait until the project goes live to assess benefits, you might as well try to solve a puzzle blindfolded. Too often, project benefits are eroded by scope creep, especially when the “can we just” stakeholder requests start flying in, and you’re forced to gold-plate the solution.
This is where measuring and tracking project benefits right from the start will help you stay focused. Remember, a systematic approach gets the best results even with the most complex puzzle.
Here’s what you need to tick off:
- Define project benefits in the mobilisation phase.
- Set clear objectives – the desired benefits and outcomes of the project.
- Outline the actions and strategies needed to realise the identified benefits.
- Establish metrics and targets early.
- Continuously track and measure the actual progress towards achieving the identified benefits.
- Keep a lookout for early warning signs of impending challenges.
- Involve key stakeholders throughout the process to gain their support and insight.
- Regularly communicate the status of benefits realisation to stakeholders, providing updates on progress and any adjustments made.
- Be open to adapting the benefits realisation plan based on evolving project circumstances.
3. See a problem? Speak up early
Sometimes projects will get in a messy ‘negative equity state’ where benefits become elusive. For example, consider a project focused on implementing a new customer relationship management (CRM) system. The anticipated benefits include improved sales efficiency, enhanced customer satisfaction and increased revenue. But if the CRM system lacks user-friendly features or fails to integrate with existing systems, the expected benefits can slip away – creating inefficiencies and frustrated employees.
Instead of getting another cup of tea and hoping you can find the answer with fresh eyes, toughen up and speak up! Hard decisions may loom, but facing your reality head-on is the mark of a true project manager. So, gather your courage, assemble your facts and have those difficult conversations. After all, in project management, courage isn’t a virtue – it’s a necessity.
4. Optimism is a double-edged sword
Acknowledging potential pitfalls keeps you vigilant throughout the project. Here are six sneaky ways optimism can sabotage your projects and undermine benefits:
- Classic overconfidence. Where the infamous Dunning-Kruger effect (a cognitive bias whereby people with low ability, expertise, or experience, tend to overestimate their ability or knowledge) kicks in, watch out for unrealistic deadlines and underestimating what’s required.
- Oversimplification. Oh, the temptation to rely on assumptions instead of hard facts! This can lead to lofty, overambitious goals that are unrealistic.
- You are avoiding pain. If you constantly convince yourself that you’ll catch up at the next milestone, you’ll never truly address the issues that lurk beneath the surface.
- Confirmation bias. It’s that alluring tendency to ignore the 99 signs pointing to project issues and focus solely on that one glimmer of positivity. We’ve all been there.
- The availability cascade. Like a broken record playing in our heads, we repeat the project’s grand vision so much that it blurs our perception of realistic expectations.
- Perceptual bias. When under pressure, we tend to zoom in on individual details, neglecting the crucial step of stepping back and assessing the complete picture of the project.
Good enough, is good enough …by definition
Remember, in the complex Wasgij realm of project management: good enough is good enough. Don’t let the elusive pursuit of perfection hinder your progress towards achieving the desired benefits. Instead, stick to the vision, remain focused on what you asked for, and resist the temptation to pile on unnecessary functionality that inflates costs and derails schedules. It’s delivering what was promised that truly matters.