The future of organizations is in the hands of Gen Y. Most Gen X-ers are probably now in senior management positions or a few may even be retired. So the real execution champions of the future are in Gen Y — the age group that, in the context of business, I consider to be 20- to 35-year-olds.
The fundamental difference between Gen Y and Gen X is that members of the former have had easy, ready-access to technology for much of their lives. This significantly influenced and changed the generation's behavior, needs and expectations. It follows that project management in the era of Gen Y will also undergo significant changes.
Here are five ways I think the Gen Y workforce will change project management:
1. Make it lean. Gen Y does not read large volumes of manuals. After careful observation, I have found that any information taking more than 15 minutes to find, read, understand and analyze makes Gen Y project managers impatient. The change I foresee is a tremendous re-engineering of project management processes to make them simple and lean. And of course, technology will play a key role.
2. Make it digital. By "digitization," I mean embedding technologies like mobile, social and analytics into processes. Project management with digital capabilities will increasingly allow Gen Y — or any generation — to perform work from anywhere, anytime and connect with mentors, experts and colleagues in real-time through collaboration networks.
Digitization will also continue fulfill the generation's expectations for high predictability (through analytics) and inclination to push information to a project team proactively.
3. Make it emotional. From my experience, Gen Y likes to hear real-life project experiences and stories from seniors, mentors and coaches. They do not like to hear lectures and speeches. Therefore, storytelling in projects will become necessary to keep Gen Y engaged and motivated. This significantly impacts the leadership style of managers, who will need to move beyond how-to lessons and speak of past experiences "in the trenches."
4. Make it enjoyable. Gen Y expects transparency and immediate recognition for work via technology. Any existing project management process that includes performance assessments that are partly objective, highly subjective and human-dependent will fail to meet the speed and needs of the new project teams. I predict gamification mechanics, such as points, badges, leader boards and levels, will become a part of many a project management system.
5. Make it flat. Gen Y doesn't like to work in strict hierarchical structures or environment. Organizations will have to revisit their project structures and change their leadership styles to be more engaging, collaborative and approachable. If not, Gen Y won't hesitate to leave an organization if the environment does not suit their expectations or mindset.
What other changes do you think a digital-savvy Gen Y will bring to the profession?