of Antonio's next book, Project Revolution, to be published early 2019.
All copyrights reserved. Originals published in Harvard Business Review,
Dec 2016 and The Smart Manager, issue Jan-Feb 2018, Vol. 17,
India's leading business magazine.
Reproduced and edited here with permission.
Published here, April 2018
The Rise of the Project Economy
In the VUCA world, there is one extreme disruption that media and academia have completely missed. For over 100 years, organizations' main focus has been on excelling at running business (day-to-day operations) as opposed to changing it (execution of projects). This has been reflecting in the way firms have been structured and run, all in a very similar manner hierarchical in which power, budgets, and resources are divided over departments, the so-called "silos". Management and management theory were focused on how to run and optimize (efficiency, volumes, costs) the business best. Projects were an addition, but hardly ever a priority.
But now, we are witnessing the rise of the "project economy". The so-called "gig economy" is driven by projects. This massive disruption is not only impacting the way organizations are managed, every aspect of our lives is becoming a set of projects. Some of the areas in which this enormous transformation is happening are:
- Education: For centuries, learning was achieved by memorizing books and hefty material. Today, leading educational systems, starting from early ages, apply the concept of "project-based-learning" to teach. This is how many millennials have learnt. Applying theories and experimenting through projects have proven to be much better learning methods, and will become the norm soon.
- Careers: Not so long ago, professional careers were built in just one organization. Most of our parents worked for one company only. Today, most of us go through different jobs in several companies, for which we are best equipped if we approach them like a set of projects. A study by Intuit predicted that by 2020, 40% of American workers will be independent contractors engaging in short-term "project" jobs.
- Democracy: The present crisis we are seeing in political systems around the world have led to political academia propose new ways of governing countries. One of the most revolutionary experiments is being carried out in Northern Ireland. The Irish Constitutional Convention (ICC), established by the Irish government in 2012, will address a number of potential constitutional reforms through projects.