Karolina Mackiewicz: Don’t fear unexpected future change – prepare for it!

There is a paradox – while the work of the project managers is about bringing change, there is often nothing scarier for them than change itself! Change is what we want but only if it goes as we planned it. And what about the change we do not know about and we cannot even imagine happen? What about the change that comes from the outside and we do not like it?

In 2000, which is now 17 years ago, Roevens and Rowley published their ‘’Organize with chaos’’ book, claiming that ‘’Managers must start loving change’’. Even though I knew nothing about project management back then, I am sure the notion was revolutionary at that moment. What is a bit frightening – it seems same revolutionary almost two decades afterwards. We, humans have a natural tendency to avoid change, which is associated with uncertainty and risk. We love our sophisticated plans, which give us a feeling of control and power. Reports on the project implementation include such words as ‘’according to the plan’’, or ‘’behind plan’’ and there is this negative ‘’deviation’’ for ‘’change’’. But really, do we think we can plan for everything, that we can anticipate everything, control everything?

World is more complex than we often consider it to be and sitting in our office, being surrounded by our team and colleagues and affected by our previous experience, might influence the way we see the world – we can think it is simpler than it is. Complexity might be as scary as uncertainty and again avoided at all costs.  And maybe this attitude of shutting eyes and ears to the change outside, brings us the news of ‘’unexpected crisis’’ or ‘’surprising crashes’’ on the regular basis?

Future change cannot be fully predicted but it can be explored and prepared for. Futurists have lots of tools used in e.g. foresight that can benefit the project managers and their companies in dealing with the uncertain tomorrow. Instead of the rigid plans, they provide analysis, forecasts and set of scenarios that can widen one’s perspective on the options. But all those documents will be worth nothing, if we, the managers, will keep fighting change. Embrace it, enjoy it and get the best out of it.

The PMI 2017 Conference theme is ‘’Change’’. We believe the one-day full of inspirational presentations and exchanges, will make you more comfortable with change. We are also looking to hear your stories about change (any change, may it be planned, expected, surprising). Register now to the Conference here!

Karolina Mackiewicz (MA Political Sciences, MA Futures Studies)
project manager, change facilitator and futurist