A project is a synonym for change. And project managers execute the vision for a change and the mission into reality. However, there is a need to shift the parochial paradigm from managing and leading change to making and owning the change.
The next-generation project manager does not just manage change but also wishes for change. They take ownership and accountability to make the change happen. Using their knowledge, resources, and determination, they push through resistance and drive the change. They may not possess all the skills needed, but they know best how to use the resources at their disposal. They connect the dots, unearth the blind spots, and influence the outcomes through cogent focus and commitment. They are determined to transform their circle of influence. They are the changemakers.
In today’s fast-paced world, most project managers are engrossed in following processes and systems. They do not think out of the box. These project managers do not adopt a holistic approach to optimize the current structures and systems, thereby failing to achieve their outcomes efficiently. They are more focused on ticking all the boxes and crafting a quick go-to-market strategy.
By contrast, changemakers armed with a design thinking mindset focus not only on improving the customer experience but also on overcoming resistance from all corners. With their strong beliefs and passion, changemakers are thoughtful, compassionate, humble, and full of empathy and integrity. They not only use their skills, expertise, and authority to bring a positive change but they also set new trends. Changemakers like Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King epitomize these human qualities.
The following are some key points that distinguish the roles of a project manager and a changemaker:
Changemakers use their collaborative nature, expertise, and authority in a way that brings positive social change, and affirms the humanity of stakeholders. They have the freedom, confidence, and societal support to address any problem and drive change.
Changemakers focus on lean changes at a time which can lead to a monumental transformation or new ways of working (WoW) over time. Their primary focus is on minimum viable changes, ensuring that teams stick to changes that work, and discard those that do not. They ensure that these changes happen gradually, but not out of nowhere. Changemakers weigh the cost of a change and prioritize changes that will have a good impact in a shorter time, thus implementing it in ‘thin slices’ that suit the stakeholders. They also assess how well the changes work in practice before applying that experience for future changes.
Changemakers unconsciously follow the Agile Manifesto, responding to change instead of following a plan, and harnessing it for the customer’s competitive advantage. They make the journey relatable and memorable for the people they work with. Changemakers rewire the brain to change the de facto response.
The changemaker focuses on changing the culture by revamping and fixing the system. They come out of their comfort zone and move toward the learning zone, ultimately breaking into the growth zone. They are the nextgeneration leaders; they are the ground breakers; they are the social drivers; they are the social entrepreneurs. They are reinventing WoW. They are not only the game influencer and the game player but also the gamechanger.
It is time for project managers to upskill and upgrade themselves. Think differently, change the game, and make the change.Biren Parekh is vice president, Intellect Design Arena. He has rich experience in managing and implementing complex digital transformation programs for banking, financial services, and insurance products in toptier retail and corporate banks.