Project-based Work is the Future of Work

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In business, project management provides a valuable and efficient structure for identifying and focusing on priorities, tracking and measuring performance, overcoming challenges and problems as well as addressing unforeseen risks that arise, and achieving higher performance and probability of success in every business endeavor.

The nature of work is changing

We are moving towards a project-based economy as our economy increasingly sees work as project-based rather than role-based. This shift to the future of work is accelerating due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The more you view work as project-based rather than role-based, the more flexible your team and organization will be.

What is project-based work?

Project-based work has clear goals, milestones, and deliverables, as well as clear start and end dates. Projects might take hours or months or more—the duration varies depending on each project and business needs. But the job is aligned with business needs and goals, not a specific role.

The benefits of project-based work

As business leaders, we all want our teams to be agile and flexible, and adopting a project-based work mindset helps increase speed and agility. A recent report from MIT and Deloitte found that executives are increasingly viewing their workforce as an ecosystem—using various skill sets of full-time employees and freelancers to meet business challenges.

With a project-based approach, you can innovate faster and upgrade your skills internally and externally as needed. You can also operate more efficiently by leveraging your workforce ecosystem to increase or decrease skill-based resources.

Increased agility, faster innovation, improved operational efficiency, etc.—it all sounds ideal, but how do you move from a traditional role-based organization to a project-based organization? The following key steps can help you make this transition.

  • Change the job definition:
    First, you must redefine the job. This is an ongoing effort, not a one-time fix. Consider your near-term, short-term and long-term goals. How do you define these goals by project? What skills do these projects require? Consider how your current workforce maps these opportunities. What skills do you need from freelancers and contractors? By developing what's called an "adaptive team network," you can build the nimble organization you need. Using a consulting firm experienced in project-based work can help you move away from role-based work.

  • Focus on planning:
    For this model to work well, you must have a constant emphasis on planning. One of the advantages of working with on-demand talent is that you can acquire resources in a short period of time. However, when moving to a holistic project-based approach to work, you need to plan ahead and develop a project roadmap. Your roadmap will evolve to suit business strategy and needs, but you should always be thinking about your next project, especially for your full-time employees.

  • Evaluate your processes:
    A flexible, on-demand workforce cannot function without strong processes and communication. The potential for layoffs, missed handovers, and other unforced errors only increases when some or most of the team-delivering work involves freelancers, contractors, and consultants. Also, consider how you can improve your connection and communication with your team.

  • Build your talent pool:
    When you compare the skills of full-time employees to project-based jobs, you'll find areas where you might need additional resources or a different skill set. Developing a pool of outside talent makes it easy to get the right mix of skills when and where you need them.

  • Recruit and train critical thinking skills:
    Soft skills such as adaptability and self-motivation are critical to the future of work. Critical thinking is one of the keys to the success of project-based work. Asking the right questions is very important. Employees and freelancers need to ensure that questions have the appropriate level of clarity and detail so as not to impact cost and efficiency.
Project-based work is the future of work

Not only is the way we work shifts to project-based work, but so is the way we hire team members and improve our own experience. In the future of work, personas and buzzword-ridden online profiles will become less relevant, and project-based identities will become more meaningful.

The project-based work model helps to increase the flexibility and innovation of the team. Now is the time to start thinking about its skills ecosystem and how it will be organized and delivered in a project-based environment.

Executives will have the capabilities to effectively sponsor projects
and train managers in modern project management.
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