If you fear clouds, don’t become project manager

Via Thomas Michel’s blog I discovered the blog parade “Projektleiter 2030”. Under the heading “Project Manager 2030 — long since abolished or the control centre of the digital (project) world?”, the project magazine poses the a couple of questions, some of which are:

How will project managers work in 2030 — will they still be project managers?
Which utopias do you expect, which gloomy scenarios do you see on the horizon?

In my role as a manager, I have tasks such as resource planning, I am jointly responsible for the success of the project and sometimes I myself lead an initiative (=project). However, I still don’t see myself as a project manager. Why do I have something to say here? After reading a few of the contributions to the blog parade, it became clear to me that the question must also be asked for many other professions (e. g. executives, HR,…).

So what do clouds have to do with the answer to the question of project manager 2030? Actually, there’s a German quote that says:

Whoever fears every cloud, is not a good farmer.

Sounds like a crazy analogy. When I tried to answer the questions, the picture of a farmer came to my mind. And indeed, I have discovered five parallels that could give a clue as to whether there are still project managers in 2030 and what their work will look like.

There’s neither one kind of project managers nor farmers

First of all, it should be noted that there is no such thing as THE project manager as the farmer. Some specialise in the cultivation of food, others breed cattle, one cultivates a forest and the other does a little bit of everything. The same goes for the project managers. In one company, project managers are recruited from a specialist area, are deeply involved in a technical topic and coordinate only the results of the respective discipline. In the next company, project managers are rather generalists who coordinate everything from D like deadlines to P for procurement. Some of them have full responsibility for a budget. Others, while coordinating and reporting a lot, are not allowed to spend a single euro themselves. Then there are agile variants like the “Scrum Master”. I don’t know if a Scrum Master would call himself a project manager? Maybe these are the organic farmers;)

So the spectrum is broad. That is why I do not believe that there can be a general answer to the questions asked. Project managers who are not afraid of change, i. e. making their teams fit for surprises and seeing change as an opportunity rather than a threat, are probably still very popular in 2030.

Rise of the machines

Digitisation, artificial intelligence and algorithms will also not stop at the activities of the project managers and destroy work. I think the farmers were faced with a similar change 100 years ago, when the first agricultural machines (e. g. the famous Lanz tractor) came up. Presumably there was a lot of scepticism. Today, no one would want to do without the support of these machines. After all, the physical work on the field was anything but pleasant. Farmers’ early adopters are already enjoying the benefits of the next industrial revolution. Big data and sensors allow predictive machine maintenance, prediction of disease in livestock and optimization of seed and harvest.

sugar beet harvest | CC0 distel2610 on Pixabay

There are also a lot of manual tasks for project managers, which one would love to have automated. Excelsheets are maintained with great manual effort and hundreds of hours are spent creating reports. Who wouldn’t want machines to do that? Roboadvisor could help with budget decisions, in risk management we can calculate probability of occurrence within seconds thanks to Big Data and with “Alexa” every project manager has his own assistant. The same considerations can easily be made for the other mentioned disciplines. I am looking forward to the help of machines! Dear reader, which “agricultural machine” would you like to have? Which “bone job” would you like to have taken off?

Will there be part-time project managers?

In the case of farmers, the industrial revolution has resulted in many of them becoming only part-time farmers. Will we be able to observe a similar phenomenon in project managers? Thanks to digitalisation, a project manager can take on more projects at the same time. Since there will be many digitisation projects for the time being, there is no reason to panic. But why not seize the opportunity of the part-time project manager? In the morning you are project manager, in the afternoon basketball trainer. On the job sharing platform tandemploy there are 60 people who have project management in their profile. So they already exist today, the part-time project managers.

Creativity wins

And as with farmers, it is likely that project managers will see increasing differentiation. One specializes in Galloway cattle, the other in the renaissance of historical potato varieties and yet another in the cultivation of new cereals and brewing beer from them. The competition forces creativity and opens up new fields of business, for example in tourism.

Will this also be the case for project managers? Possibly, yes. So what would be the differentiation of project managers? How about innovative methods in the portfolio? Or maybe you also offer insurance for project risks? Let your mind run free and have a look at the farmers.

Farmers and project managers are growing

Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash

When comparing farmers and project managers, I noticed one thing that fascinates me the most. The farmer grows plants or animals. The project manager lets a team grow. Farmers have love for nature and animals. The project manager has love for people. The project magazine asks whether the project manager is only the coordinating body for the project participants. I don’t think that’s enough. The successful project manager lets his “plant” team grow. He makes sure that the “soil” is fertile, the team gets enough “sun and rain” and every now and then he has to take care of the “weeds”. Machines and algorithms might support it. The machine, however, will hardly develop the passion for the human. And the topic of sustainability probably doesn’t play a role for machines for the time being either. Conserving resources is already a major issue in agriculture today. I also think that the gentle treatment of people will become a bigger issue in the economy. People and sustainability will therefore very probably be the facet of the project manager in 2030, which will come into its own much more strongly.


What will the role of the project manager look like in 2030? I don’t have a crystal ball. But if you take the role of the farmer as an example, you don’t have to worry. Machines will take on many laborious tasks. This is positive on the one hand, but it also means less work. This may increase the competition for appropriate positions. But creativity and a passion for people will also be in demand in 2030. Probably even more than today. So don’t worry about the clouds of digitalization.

I am looking forward to your feedback! How do you see your future as a project manager, manager, HR specialist? What other roles can farmers also learn from? What would be your added value over machines? Comment under this article, on social media or send me a message.

This article originally was published on http://www.companypirate.de/2018/01/22/wer-jede-wolke-furchtet-taugt-nicht-zum-projektleiter/ . Translated with the help of www.DeepL.com/Translator.