Project-based learning for a changing world of work – Part 1
Projects are the catalyst for change. Developing new products, implementing strategies or organising events is increasingly performed through projects. In Germany, already more than one third of the GDP is performed through projects. The development will continue in future and triggers the need for innovative ways of education and training around project management. Specialized providers offer a wide range of training services, covering methods and tools needed for a project as well as competences for engaging with people in the context of a project. Agile approaches play a vital role for innovative projects. They also offer new ways of education and training. Real projects are used to provide challenging situations for individuals and teams to learn through the experiences gained. Project-based, on-the-job learning provides excellent opportunities for trainers and trainees. This series of blogposts specifically elaborates on training and assessment offerings of professional organisations.
Projects are nothing new. Already in 1697, Daniel Defoe highlighted the important role of projects for the improvement of English society in “An Essay upon projects” [Defoe 1697]. It seems, that “projecting” was a common intellectual pastime at the end of the 17th century. After the Industrial Revolution, focus changed to projects in the area of engineering, production and industrial work, striving to increase efficiency based on thorough planning techniques. During the 1950s the United States Military was under pressure to compete against the Soviet Union and thus made use of the mathematical approaches (Operations Research (OR) was popular at that time). Project planning techniques such as network planning, Critical Path Method or Programme Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) were introduced to accelerate projects and achieve higher efficiency. During the 1960s the first professional organisations, such as the International Project Management Association (IPMA) were established. They took care for the development of the discipline, e.g. through exchanging experiences and developing standards [Morris 2013]. Firstly, came the Body of Knowledge (BoK) of the Project Management Institute (PMI), later expanded to “A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide)”, describing the methodologies needed for managing projects. IPMA and its member associations went another route and launched the IPMA Competence Baseline during the late 1990s, defining the competences needed for managing projects. Both are the leading professional organisations for the domain of project management, offering training, assessment and certification of project personnel on a global level.
Projectification requires competence development
During the last couple of decades, the number and importance of projects has been steadily growing. This phenomenon is called “projectification” and means that projects are becoming increasingly complex, large, expensive and widespread [Lundin et al 2015]. Projects in one form or the other represent a major part of the economic activities in sectors such as private businesses, public administration or not-for-profit activities. A comparative study in Germany, Norway and Iceland has researched into the projectification in Western economies [Schoper et al 2018]. These three countries indicate that the current degree of projectification in Western economies seems to be in a 30% range, which means that roughly one third of all economic activities are carried out in the form of projects. The authors of the study conclude that current trends like digitalization and automation of processes will lead to a further decrease of the regular functional line work and a shift towards project-based working.
What is the impact of projectification? Organisations use temporary structures to get things done. From the start to the end of a project, small or large numbers of people are involved, fulfilling specific tasks in a given time, against agreed-upon requirements and within the limits of a budget or other constraints. The IPMA ICB defines projects as “unique, temporary, multi-disciplinary and organised endeavours to realise agreed deliverables within predefined and constraints.” [IPMA 2017] With the word “unique” it is meant that the work does not follow the routine processes of an organisation; it is somehow new, requires people to be innovative, be pro-active and self-organised in order to develop new approaches and solutions as well as minimizing the risks for the organisation. Based on the definition and characteristics of project-based work, people need to be competent in dealing with projects. That encompasses not only project managers, but all people involved in projects, such as members of a project team, the project sponsor and all leaders involved in the governance or decision-making for projects, as well as line functions of the organisation, providing resources and know-how for projects.
- Defoe D (1697) An Essay upon Projects. Three Legs in the Poultrey, London
- IPMA (2017) IPMA Individual Competence Baseline for Project, Programme and Portfolio Management. Version 4.0. IPMA, Nijkerk
- Lundin R et al (2015) Managing and Working in Project Society. Institutional Challenges of Temporary Organizations. Cambridge University Press
- Morris P (2013) Reconstructing project management. Wiley, Chichester
- Schoper Y, Wald A, Ingason H, Fridgeirsson T (2017) Projectification in Western economies: A comparative study of Germany, Norway and Iceland. International Journal of Project Management 36, 1: 71-82