Articles & Resources > Project Management >

Organizations Turn to Project Managers, Process Improvement to Drive Cultural Change

Organizations Turn to Project Managers, Process Improvement to Drive Cultural Change

Man and woman looking at colorful adhensive notes on whiteboard in an office

Last Updated March 6, 2024

The latest Pulse of the Profession report from the Project Management Institute (PMI) identifies three areas executives see as the most important to achieving success: organizational agility, choosing the right technologies to invest in and securing employees with relevant skills.

The skills area speaks directly to those working in project management and process improvement. The 2020 Pulse of the Profession reported that, on average, businesses waste 11.4% in investments due to poor project management. Organizations that “undervalue project management as a strategic competency for driving change” had an average of 67% more of their projects failing outright, the report found.

A Commitment to Skills Development

Changing those numbers requires executive commitment to training that allows project managers to develop the proper skill sets. It also requires cultural change and a shift to running a business increasingly through its projects.

More organizations are making that commitment. The report found that 61% of project professionals said their organization provides project management training, and 47% have a defined project professional career path. 

Also, 51% of organizations require project professionals to hold a certification for their role. They want professionals with technical project management skills combined with solid leadership, business and digital skills.

According to the report: “At a time of extraordinary change driven by new technologies, executive leaders from across business, government and nonprofit organizations know that success depends on big, bold ideas. And they need people with the skills and mindset to deliver on those ideas with big, bold projects—or risk being left behind.”

The Project Economy

The PMI report focused on three areas that drive success in what they call The Project Economy. The term refers to the idea that projects have become central to how work gets done and problems get solved. No matter how an organization approaches projects, they focus on “delivering financial and societal value.”

As organizations continually evolve into this new approach, the focus has shifted to three main areas.

Ability is Agility – Organizations need to fail fast and pivot to “what’s next” to keep pace with rapid change and competition.

Technology Rules, But People Influence – Innovative technology such as AI and machine learning are only as powerful as the people behind them. Reaping the full benefit of technology requires training for project leaders, finding people with the right talent to take on important roles and setting up successful processes.

It’s a Project Leader’s World – Executives increasingly turn to project leaders to “turn ideas into reality.” This requires a blend of professional skills that include understanding of automation and design thinking as well as strong people skills.

Supporting A Change in Culture

Information from the 2020 PMI report mirrored PMI’s 2019 Pulse of the Profession, which found that about 12% of project investment is wasted due to poor performance. That number has changed little in the past five years.

However, the 2020 report found that almost half of companies place a high value on making project management part of their cultural change. About 70% of leaders surveyed by PMI want to create a culture centered on customer value.

Matthew Klein Jr., PMP, senior director of the enterprise project management office at Farasis Energy in California, is quoted in the 2020 Pulse report as saying that “a great value proposition for project management is to find ways to reduce pain points within the organization and for customers.”

PMI reports that some companies have adopted project practices into their culture. For example, some have embedded design thinking into how they approach projects for clients. Every challenge is considered from the point of view of the stakeholders involved, making it easier to identify pain points and find solutions.

That sort of cultural change can drive results. In 2018, Harvard Business Review predicted that design thinking can “unleash people’s full creative energies, win their commitment and radically improve processes.” 

It’s one of the many ways project management is changing business operations and culture – and underscores the need for more trained and certified project managers.

If you are interested in learning more about project management education or how to prepare to become a certified project manager, visit our Certificate in Applied Project Management program page, or our Project Management Professional (PMP)® Exam Preparation course page.