The PMI has just released a report on the Future of Work, based on its 11th Pulse of the Profession Survey. Called ‘Leading the Way with PMTQ’, it introduced the idea of Project Management Technology Quotient (PMTQ).
In this article, we’ll examine this report critically. We’ll try to understand the idea behind PMTQ and assess what it means for you, as a working Project Manager.
Please be aware that this is partly a summary of the PMI’s report, partly an analysis of its context, and also, in part, an opinion piece. As always, if this is a topic that resonates for you, you should read the original report for yourself and form your own judgment.
To download your copy of ‘The Future of Work: Leading the Way with PMTQ’, visit the PMI’s website.
The PMI’s 2019 Pulse of the Profession report on the Future of Work came out in March 2019. At that time, it is not clear whether PMI will produce further reports based on its 11th global project management survey data. This is certainly a very different report to the previous three that we have analysed:
Each year, the Project Management Institute (PMI) conducts a global project management survey and this year, it publishes the 11th. The previous Pulse of the Profession Reports presented a large quantity of the survey data, to draw several important findings from it.
Whilst each had a key theme, the reports gave many different things for us to think about. This report, ‘The Future of Work: Leading the Way with PMTQ’, is different.
It has just one
On the last question, I am hopeful we will. Last year (2018), PMI produced the broad survey report in February, then followed it up with a deep dive into one aspect, the following May.
This report’s them is the PMI’s concept of a Project Management Technology Quotient, PMTQ. It picks up on the established concept of a Technology Quotient (TQ) and combines it with Project Management.
PMI opens the report by noting that their 2019 survey shows that organizations continue to waste a big chunk of their project budgets. They put this down to poor performance.
|Report Year||Wasted Investment|
|2019||‘almost 12 percent’|
The conclusion PMI draws from this is something of a truism:
They say we need ‘a new ingredient to that old formula’. The roles we need to carry out will increasingly be ‘tied to technology’. Therefore, project leaders need a high Project Management Technology Quotient.
PMTQ appears to be PMI’s own coinage. So let’s start on some more solid ground: TQ, or Technology Quotient.
PMI’s report defines Technology Quotient as:
…a person’s ability to adapt, manage and integrate technology based on the needs of the organization or project at hand.The Future of Work: Leading the Way with PMTQ
This very much matches other definitions you’ll find. The idea of Technology Quotient leans on the long familiar idea of Intelligence Quotient (IQ) as a statistical measure of intelligence, where 100 is the average for a wide population.
Note that it would be foolish to think that any detailed research has gone into TQ, and the statistics around it. And it’s also worth mentioning that, while scientifically valid, the core concept of IQ has been much misused and abused as a means of creating divisions among us.
However, in his 2017 article in Psychology Today, John Nostra takes the IQ analogy further, in defining TQ as…
A technology quotient representing a person’s ability to adapt to and integrate technology as compared to the statistical norm or average for their age, taken as 100.John Nosta in Psychology Today (14 March 2017)
My favorite definition appeared a few months later in a paper documenting a session that I take to be a seminar or workshop by
…our ability to assimilate or adapt to technology changes by developing and employing strategies to successfully include technology in our work and life. A high TQ includes the right attitude, capabilities and decision- making strategies to fully leverage technology. A person with a high TQ:
– organizes work to take full advantage of available technologyTechnology Quotient (TQ) and the Digital Skills Gap, John Burton
– reaps a payback from taking technology risks
– takes advantage of the opportunities technology presents
There is a webpage dating back to 2007 that refers to a website that PayPal had built that allowed us to Test our TQ. That site is no longer available. But it does suggest two things:
The normal way I’d trace the start of a term like TQ is using Google’s
The first solid use I found is the Psychology Today article by John Nostra, which I referenced above. But I will later draw upon a June 2015 article in McKinsey Quarterly, that refers to Digital
PMI does not explicitly define PMTQ. But it is clear what they mean in this paper. PMTQ is the ability to manage
But it has always been so. When did Project Managers not need to be comfortable with the technology of the era? Surely the pyramid builders needed project managers who understood rollers, levers, and pulleys.
Maybe, PMDQ would have been a smarter term to choose.
PMI concludes that constant digital disruption needs organizations with innovation-driven cultures. These need to
Digital sustainability, therefore, demands project managers to lead the transformations that will create new products, services, and cultures. With high PMTQ, you can not only understand the technology you are charged to implement. But you can also properly manage and lead the technologists and engineers who will do the work.
More than this, you will need to cultivate
This paper has three principal assertions that we must examine:
I’ll come straight out and say ‘no’. I don’t doubt that the conclusion is correct, but PMI’s evidence is thin at best. I’m sure the survey gathered far more data than PMI presents in this short report. But what it does present is
The data PMI presents show two groups: ‘PMTQ Innovators’ and ‘PMTQ Laggards’. It shows that the PMTQ Innovators, who put a high priority on digital skills and knowledge, have far higher scores across a wide range of project management processes and capabilities.
High PMTQ leads to better project management?
No. All this shows us is that the good organizations, who invest in digital skills and knowledge also have good PM abilities. Is it a surprise that an organization that is good at one thing is good at something else that is equally important for its success. Correlation does not imply causation.
Oh dear, PMI. You advocate critical thinking on page 5 of your report, but this is a
In 2015, consulting firm McKinsey carried out research into practices related to digital strategy, capabilities, and culture. Their report, ‘Raising Your Digital Quotient’ is wide-ranging, subtle, and thoughtful.
Whilst this report is aimed at corporate CEOs and is talking about company-wide culture and strategy. It is relevant here. First, because it does endorse PMI’s conclusions. And second, because PMI sets us, as project managers, the task of helping our organizations with this transformation.
I must compliment PMI on the three characteristics the report selects to define a high PMTQ. These are not the ‘obvious’ things like:
Rather, we see what I consider to be subtle and mature thinking. For me, page 4 is the star of the report.
The three characteristics are:
PMI offers four challenges for us in helping our organizations get to a ‘new normal’. And I will summarize them below.
My concern is that PMI seems to be loading a lot onto us. I do wonder how many project managers have the leverage to do this.
To me, the third and fourth challenges seem doable. The first and second are a big ask. They seek to address corporate-tier strategic and cultural shifts. And I think for us to be successful, we need to see a shift in the status of the profession. We need a seat at the very top table of corporate governance. Sadly, we aren’t there yet. C-suite Project Directors are rare. The closest we come
I’ll return to those four challenges at an organizatonal
The first place to start is with cultivating:
You’re reading this. That’s a great start. The broader your base of learning and self-development, the better. Ask questions and seek answers. Talk to people and find out what they know. Ask also what they think, and then assess it critically. And find ways to test your ideas in the crucible of your project.
When you settle-in with a fixed solution set for the problems you anticipate, that marks the start of your career decline. I’m not saying you won’t get jobs and projects to manage. But they won’t be at the leading edge for long.
It’s going to take a very special mindset to manage a robot. I thought my credentials on diversity and equalities in the workplace were pretty-near impeccable. But the thought of ‘treating a digital employee just like we would a human employee’ has shaken me. It’s not that I reject the idea, but that I am not sure I’d know how.
Just as gender, race, sexuality and other sources of diversity have challenged generations before us, so this will challenge ours. But just as I for one would strive to treat any human with equal respect, I believe there will be a generation that will see robots as just another source of workplace talent.
But don’t think this will come easily. You may need to shift your attitude. And you will need to learn new ways of working.
Your always-on curiosity will serve you well. But as a project manager, you have a wider responsibility: to secure a team that has all the capabilities you’ll need for this and your next project. So there will be a growing premium on project managers who can anticipate the direction of travel of their organizations, and create the capability pool you’ll need to make that journey effectively.
But there’s a deeper point. We can’t be treating our colleagues as disposable items.
When your phone’s capabilities no longer match the shiny new functionality of the latest generation, you may well replace it with a new one. Let’s set aside the ethical challenge of placing so much rare metal in land-fill while expending huge reserves of energy extracting more from our environment.
And there is a temptation to treat professionals the same way. I no longer need capability G. Now I need capability H. So I’ll fire the worker I have and hire a new one. That won’t work. It’s costly, it’s risky, and it’s unethical. Instead, you’ll need to foresee this possibility and make sure the people you have
The 1990s ushered in what we call the ‘Information Age’. A time of easy access to vast information banks, and the ability to process ‘big data’ to gain more information. But at some time we will enter (or maybe have entered) the ‘Hybrid Age’. The transitional period between the Information Age and the Singularity. Machine intelligence catches us up and starts to play an increasing role in our lives, culture, and economy.
For me, Technical Quotient needs to measure our ability to work effectively in the Hybrid Age. And PMTQ is our ability to deliver projects in that culture. But we also need to be able to lead a younger generation who take it all for granted, just as my parents’ generation took TV, radio, and telephones for granted. These are the ‘Digital Natives’.
Google’s dictionary defines a digital native as:
a person born or brought up during the age of digital technology and so familiar with computers and the Internet from an early age.
Wikipedia tells us that the term was coined in 1996 by John Perry Barlow, as part of the Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace. It describes someone who grew up in the digital age. It contrasts them with digital immigrants, who moved into the digital world as an adult.
You may be a digital native. But what that means and the depth of digital technology
A high PMTQ means being able to adapt easily
The skills gap is certainly increasing, between those who feel proficient and comfortable with the digital tools their workplace needs them to use, and those who don’t.
You’ll find all sorts of estimates of the ratio. Ignore them. Probably the variability depends largely on the type of digital tools being assessed, and the demographics of the workforce.
For your organization to navigate the maze of digital disruption, managing technological advances is a key differentiator that can lead to business success… or failure.
But technology is an enabler: not the product. So, to apply it wisely needs business acumen too. So what are the steps to close the skills gap between digital natives and yourself, if you have a lower PMTQ than you’d
Beyond the PMI’s three characteristics of high PMTQ, what are some of the competencies that a high PMTQ project manager will need? This isn’t an area of expertise for me, but I offer the following list as a starter to stimulate your thinking.
Oddly, the ‘Future of Work’ report ends (rather than starts) with the case for PMTQ. It puts forward a graph showing the performance difference between PMTQ Innovators and PMTQ Laggards. Like the other data, I think the PMI is confusing correlation with causation. There is no evidence, beyond an appeal to plausibility, to suggest that better project performance metrics are the direct result of higher PMTQ.
But that’s the case they make for the Return on Investment (ROI) of PMTQ.
No shrewd Finance Director would see this as a compelling case.
But I do believe that no progressive organization can afford to take the risk of not investing in raising the TQ and PMTQ of its people. So, what does PMI say we should be doing to contribute to this?
This one seems a bit obvious. But my challenge is that the examples are around corporate strategy and marketing initiatives. As project managers, we don’t get to choose those: we just implement them. But, I would say:
Number 1: Become an advocate for trying innovative technology solutions wherever possible.
The report points out that increasingly, ‘each
Number 2: Don’t see increasing tiers of Project Managers as a threat. It’s an opportunity to focus your career on ever
Our colleagues (and we ourselves) need the career paths that will combine project management, leadership, business skills, and digital acumen. I see this call to action as absolutely right”
Number 3: Work with your Human Resources (HR) colleagues to create career paths and development opportunities.
I sense the PMI is skirting around a change to its talent triangle. The report says that:
the new professional reality demands a combination of technical and project management skills, leadership skills and strategic and business management skills – along with the ability to learn and keep pace with technology.The Future of Work: Leading the Way with PMTQ, page 6 – my emphasis
Doesn’t this sound rather like four, rather than three sides of a triangle! PMI refers to six digital-age skills:
Number 4: Get ahead of the PMI’s shift to the Talent Tetrad. Invest in your technology Quotient and your Digital-age skill-set.
This has been a long article with more opinion than usual. So I’d welcome reading and discussing your responses to the PMI’s PMTQ concept, and the report in general. Please leave a comment below.
Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 13 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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