• Adam Thackeray

Timeless Skills in the digital age

Recently, I was reminded by a colleague while working with a client about how hard it is to find great project managers who can help guide and inspire teams to deliver. These elusive rockstar PMs are hard to come by and individuals have forgotten what it means to really be a high-performing contributor. 

Unfortunately mediocrity is favoured vs. performance.

Ironically, a few years ago I wrote an article about how to become a rockstar project manager and noted a few timeless skills to develop or evolve to really stand leagues ahead of the rest. These skills were meant to grow individuals not strictly in their expertise of project management practices rather evolving to become a high-performing individual that can work as part of a larger high-performing team. These skill are meant for anyone in the working world to learn, sharpen and become a master of throughout their career. Being a rockstar in a particular role isn’t about memorizing the actual standards and processes - such as the industry models defined for example - project mgmt, agile delivery, design thinking, devops, sales, finance or marketing. The greatest determinant of being rockstar-level calibre is being able to make conscious decisions on what to do at any given point; how to apply the knowledge and expertise…and if you do not know the answer, find someone who does or take the information provided and determine a course of action based on what you have…regardless of the imperfect situation you may find yourself in. This is adaptability and flexibility. This is wisdom (right thought and right understanding). 

These core skillsets are problem solving + critical thinking, emotional intelligence, communication, tech chops and execution. I believe they are pivotal to acquire and grow in the age of software. 

When I talk about execution I’m referring to the ability for you to get the work done…and this delivery is seldom done as an individual at work. So not only is it the ability to get your own work done…It’s your ability to inspire others around you to get work done as well! One of the biggest gaps I continuously see is the inability for organizations to operationalize strategies and plans; again ability to execute. 

The reasons ( and ahem - excuses…) are endless. Analysis paralysis, consensus building…….

Strategies and plans provide a snapshot at that particular point in time…but then what? 

You need to be able to understand how to turn plans and desired outcomes into real action, ensuring commitment and alignment, end/end value of what you’re delivering, changes to the organization, continuous improvement and delivery, pushback and mobilizing the teams to get the work done. 

Execution is key to your success. I focus on execution here because it is challenging during times of chaos and crisis to see the path. It may not exist and thats OK…because having a strong team and leaders will allow you to persevere even without the entire path laid out…because you will learn, adapt and move forward. Operationalizing strategies is a big challenge. This existed before COVID-19 and is now increasingly evident as organizations struggle to adapt…because in order to execute and deliver, you need people who possess these skills — problem solving, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, communication and tech chops (which yes are required to be rockstar project manage as well!)

Today’s world is constantly changing and that is the only consistent theme. Digital transformation is now at the forefront. You will have learned a tremendous amount in the last 8-12 weeks about distributed operations, where your greatest “burning fires” are in the organization and how you need to have a greater emphasis on outcomes driven by digital capabilities and aligning your organization to operate in this manner. You are likely (or should be asking…) What capabilities should be accelerated? How do our ways of working and operating need to immediately/longterm change and become sustainable to be resilient? You may already have strategies, plans and thoughts around these questions…but how are you going to put it into motion and operationalize it. Execution is where it all happens. Ideas come and go…it is execution and delivery that are the vital components to success of your organization. To do that you need a blend of skills that are as old as time coupled with modern technology expertise.

Here are my three key takeaways for reflection:

  1. Being a rockstar project manager gives you many paths to explore as those skills are transferrable and timeless.

  2. To persevere now and in the future, the perspective of leaders needs to shift to focus on growing these skillsets across the entire organization. (They’re also key for successful digital transformations)

  3. Business resumption is upon us. Operationalizing and execution are keys to success…and you need to have the right leaders and high-performing teams to help you on the journey. 

How is your organization developing skillsets to create rockstars and high-performing teams? What does your business resumption planning look like for the rest of 2020?

Leave your comments below.

Thanks for reading and never stop learning!


#performance #leadership #digital #transformation #growth

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