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Excerpts from Episode 59: “Project Management Millennials” with Moira Alexander
I’m currently the founder of Leadership Group and the author of “Lead Or Lag: Linking Strategic Project Management & Thought Leadership.” I contribute to various technology and business publications, including CIO as well as Tech Republic, and I have over 20 years experience in project management technology, business, processes, accounting, business intelligence for small and large businesses in the USA and Canada.
What attracted you to the area of working on projects with millennials?
I’ve always had an interest in workplace culture and diversity, and what makes one person or group behave or work in ways that may differ from others—whether it be based on job requirements, experiences, education, geographic influences, or in this case generation gaps. This was the driver behind writing that article in Tech Republic on how millennials are actually changing project management.
How do they see projects compared to previous generations?
I’ve noticed that many millennials in general, projects seemed to be thought of more as a compartmentalised initiative in that accomplishing a specific goal or subset of goals not always linked to company wide strategic objectives or intangible internal and external and global factors. I think millennials see projects more through a broad global unencumbered lenses, and they seem to take a holistic approach when planning and executing projects. In my opinion they have more of a desire to fully vest their roles within project teams and I think they see projects as an extension of their professional and personal best efforts.
What do they bring to the table that’s different to more slightly senior members of an organisation?
I think millennials are often seen as inexperienced by virtue of their lesser years of inexperience, making them erroneously devalued to an extent. What seasoned professionals may miss is that millennials have an ability to quickly tap into their natural curiosity and find innovative technological advancements without getting bogged down with hierarchies. They’re leaving educational institutions with high value and talent, but significant debt.
Their investment in themselves is a great sense of pride that they try hard to translate into pride of ownership in their work. Because they believe in themselves, I think their ability to deliver makes it easier to bypass limitations, assess, obstacles, and identify potential solutions much quicker. Especially solutions that place additional focus in areas like economic, ecological, and social factors. I think their connection with technology binds them more readily to their work outside of a 9-5 day, which can be a good an a bad thing.
How is that view going to change? Or is it changing?
I think it’s becoming a little more recognisable. A lot of this stem from the leadership teams—everything works from the top down and the bottom up. I think the leadership in companies is really the driver behind all of this. It’s been recognising this new resource to tap into, and inexperience isn’t a bad thing it’s just a different perspective. Viewing things from a different perspective and vantage point can be a great thing for companies if they recognise the potential behind it.
Do millennials bring less fear of adopting technology?
Yes. I am Generation X, and by virtue of my work, I’ve become more in tune with technology. I recognise there are significant benefits—and some drawbacks—that the millennials bring to the table that maybe previous generations don’t.
Any advice for working with millennials?
From my own experience, I found it a refreshing change to work with millennials in a a lot of ways. They’re more relaxed and have a flexible way of working and thinking, which brings new perspectives. They have a higher degree of open collaboration. Many millennials that I work with recognise, respect, and value the other generations to a great extent. They’ve grown up in a much more challenging business environment, complicated by global competition, social media connectivity, which is a plus and a minus, political and legislative hurdles that are maybe more stringent now than with previous generations, and increased levels of accountability and visibility. As a result, there’s a more elevated degree of awareness that they have to get used to that we may not have in the past. Another thing is they make no apologies for valuing work-life balance. They understand the affects of stress more than other generations, yet they can still have a strong work ethic at the same time.
“They are a generation that feels slightly entitled.”
You’re always going to have that. There are going to be millennials that have a sense of entitlement and there’s no accountability with project outcomes and their role in that. I’ve not come across a lot of it, but I have experienced some of that. You have to expect that and know that part of this is an education process. It’s leadership education millennials on accountability and where they fit into projects, what their role is, and how they impact the final outcome even if it’s not tied directly to their contribution. I see this as an educational process from the leadership.
What others way can we make the senior/millennial relationships as complementary as possible?
A big key to this is formulating teams that are not specifically heavy in one area. Putting together a team that has a good compliment of senior project individuals as well as millennials that can work together towards aligned goals, in addition to education hem on what those aligned goals are. To me, when you combine the scales of knowledge from other generations, it allows companies to fully harness their potential or multiple capabilities to create more sustainable solutions for new and old problems. That hybrid generational knowledge and skillset really can be a powerful resource to companies, so building strong teams in companies from the top down and bottom up, and setting mentors, while motivating teams. Even involving millennials and seniors in the planning process—how are we going to build stronger teams? Not waiting until you get to the project, but prior to that, how are we going to build stronger teams and what does everyone bring to the table? Why is it an advantage? Gearing your teams not just to a specific project, but also to a working style is important. Everybody has the ability to leverage their strengths and see things from a different vantage point. It’s understanding how to effectively build those teams prior to a project.
Accommodations and conflicts?
Unfortunately today, the senior staff tends to be a little more reluctant to adopt or change to technology. For a lot of the workplace it’s still a very new concept and foreign, not always, but it’s still a bit of a struggle. When this new generation of millennials comes in and say, “Hey I’ve got these great ideas and technology can help us advance these things” it’s a bit of a scary thought for a lot of the workforce.
Often times, technology is seen as something disruptive. And yes it is disruptive it’s meant to be disruptive in a good way, it’s just getting previous generations to see technology as an innovative thing and embracing it—as something meant to streamline things, reduce workload, and reduce processes, and accomplish things better and faster. There’s an education process.
It seems that there’s still a struggle between generations whose idea or way of working is better? I always think to myself, “failing to come up with the best idea itself isn’t the weakness, failing to accept that the best idea came from someone else and recognizing them for it is the weakness.” It doesn’t matter where the idea comes from as long as it’s a good idea. If you cant recognize it then you’re going to get stuck all the time. This stems form the top executive cultivating a culture where there’s inclusiveness, trust, synergy, transparency, and recognizing everybody wins when there’s a great idea, it doesn’t matter where it comes from.
Pride happens on both ends and it’s recognising that pride can be a really bad thing for companies. When you protect and withhold ideas and information, you stifle your immediate team, departments, and the entire company from moving ahead and advancing. Ultimately if your company becomes stifled, everybody loses. It’s hard for people to get their minds around that protectionism isn’t a good thing. All generations bring great gifts and talents to the table, but it’s a matter of recognising that they are great gifts and talents it doesn’t matter who they belong to.
Find out more about the Lead Her Ship Group here.
Check out Moira’s book Project Management Book “LEAD or LAG”