Feb 15, 2017

Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation … and Yours

Posted by Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin | 0 Comments

An entire generation of program and project managers is reaching retirement age. Ready or not, here come Gen X, Y and Z

A younger colleague pointed out to me that recently, there have been a spate of stories online about the millennial project manager … ranging from how to motivate millennials on the project team to the natural fit between the millennial mind and agile processes.

As the parent of millennials, I don’t exactly buy the notion that they are an entirely different animal from every generation that has gone before … and neither am I as down on them as many commentators seem to be. But I do think that it is wise of project management, as a discipline, to take note of the evolving work style that this generation and, more to the point, their favored technologies, bring to the table. Why? Simply put, an entire generation of program and project managers is reaching retirement age; and many companies have not adequately addressed what that is going to mean for their operations … never mind the initiatives that move the organization ahead strategically. Government organizations are even more drastically impacted.

The immense knowledge management and transfer project that must happen in order to smoothly hand off commerce, government, and the nonprofit sector from one generation to another won’t happen seamlessly unless we “make it so.” A few ideas:

Boomer generation project managers should keep in mind, before they share that hoary old war story again: sometimes experience is golden, and sometimes it’s just outdated dross. On the other hand, that cowpath metaphor brings to mind another insight I’ve learned from being a farmer as well as a project management writer. Young chickens – the eight-to 15 week-old “teenagers” who are no longer being watched over by their mothers, but who have not yet integrated themselves with the adults in the flock, will sometimes get a little too cocky (pun intended). They don’t properly value the experience of their elders (or the farmer). For example, they will decide it would be fun to roost in the woods overnight. You can almost hear them discussing it: “Blah blah blah foxes … what foxes? I never saw a fox. Those geezers made that up to scare us ... " But the younger members of our tribe are also full of useful surprises. I've kept chickens for nine years, and none of them have ever figured out how to cross the creek that borders the property. Until this year. One day I found all of the 8-month old crowd using a fallen tree as a bridge. Doing so exposes them to more risk, marginally, but also opens up acres of new foraging area.

So bring on the cross-generational pollination! This is an area we will be adding to our research in future studies, to examine how Generations X,Y and Z are impacting the project management workplace. Stay tuned ...

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