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The power to adapt

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2012 might as well be framed as the year when British project management came of age. The impressive list of successfully delivered projects and programmes includes:

  • The London Olympic and Paralympic games
  • The Queens Diamond Jubilee celebrations
  • Europes tallest building, the Shard
  • Testing of the worlds first 1000mph car, Bloodhound
  • A national digital switchover
  • St. Georges Park National Football Centre

Many other projects did not make the news, which means they were delivered successfully without major disruptions. The stories that did make the news were unusually positive showcasing the best in British project management.

But life does not stand still. The bar, it seems, has been raised and with it the expectations regarding what can be achieved through projects.

Over the years, commentators have noted that achievement often motivates the next cycle of endeavours as humans seek longer bridges, taller buildings, faster cars and more responsive and integrated systems. Extending our reach inevitably means taking a chance and testing the limits of our capability and knowledge, especially in the context of project work.

Greater ambition also signals the need to accommodate rising levels of complexity, uncertainty, ambiguity and change. Meanwhile, as we learn to cope with a world that is more volatile, multifaceted and interconnected, yet risky, we need to hone our skills and capabilities. In order to succeed in this new world, we need to embrace change, invite disruptive innovation, invent new business models and consider new ways of changing the enterprise. The development of organisational and professional nimbleness is key to acquiring the new skills.

There are many opportunities to raise the bar, innovate and lead. The key to new success will depend on our ability to adapt to change, to new environments, to novel challenges, to improving technologies, to integrated markets, to empowered customers, to digital convergence and to a new marketplace. Our power to deliver, innovate, satisfy and respond to challenges ultimately hinges on our ability to Adapt!

Adaptability is increasingly viewed as a key human trait, and a distinguishing feature and characteristic of successful organisations. Join us at the APM Project Management Conference 2013 to consider, learn, discuss, and debate the implications of success, the challenges of the future, and our power to adapt. The conference will bring together exciting thought leaders and outstanding practitioners in what promises to be an invigorating platform for inspecting our capability and skills for adapting and succeeding in the future.


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  1. Adrian Pyne
    Adrian Pyne 17 April 2013, 10:13 PM

    Professor Dalcher strikes a true note in his article. And I would go even further. Project professionals, and especially those who would be leaders must adapt constantly.Our best practice is not a cookbook, but is there to be adapted - to the organisation - to the programme or project or portfolio.Some of you will know that I champion PEOPLE aspects as the difficult, hard to swallow parts of our profession, that we have ignored for too long in favour of the comfort food of PROCESS and TOOLS. We now need to learn how to adapt our PM palate for the PEOPLE (behaviours and so on) flavours of our profession. There is evolution too, based on adaptation. Programme management arose out of increasing scope and complexity of change, rendering project management methods not fit for that purpose. And sometimes adaptation hides beneath pretended evolution. Many have championed Agile PM, failing to realise that any good professional PM will tend to use agile principles as - why on earth would you do more PM than is needed? DSDM is a good example of true adaptation; where it has been shown how to adapt Prince/2 - long the supposed arch villain of PM beaurocracy - to work with the DSDM Agile development method. The suggestion is not that Prince/2 is Agile, but that agile thinking can be applied to it.Adapting is by its nature thinking agile. And, hopefully, adapting well and successfully.