Trans-Generational Project Management, Part 2

Per my last post, generations weaned on scheduled, pre-packaged communication mediums are most comfortable when project communications are presented in a similar fashion. However, as Wikipedia sagely observes, Millennials and beyond have a very different set of expectations shaped by the technology they have grown up with.

According to Wikipedia

“Millennials, like other generations, are shaped by the events, leaders, developments and trends of its time. The rise of instant communication technologies made possible through use of the Internet, such as E-mail, texting, and IM and new media used through websites like YouTube and social networking sites, may explain Millennials’ reputation for being peer oriented and for seeking instant gratification. This trend of communication is continuing into Generation Z.”

Let’s focus on how these changing expectations have impacted project planning. Old school project management is all about planning, planning, and more planning. Even in the face of uncertainty, rigorous and detailed plans were expected with considerable time and energy being devoted merely to maintaining the plan itself. These standards were borne out of necessity — communications took hours or days, making unexpected changes extremely time consuming and therefore prohibitively expensive.

Now compare this approach with the Agile development methodology which is becoming popular in lockstep with the entrance of Millennials into the workforce. There is definitely some planning, but nowhere near the levels seen in previous years. Emphasis is placed on collaborative, just-in-time solutions coupled with iterative development cycles. The cost of communicating and implementing change has dropped to the point where required planning horizons are now often measured in hours or days instead of weeks and months.

In practical terms what does this all mean for a project manager with a team of Millennials? Be flexible. Be collaborative. Plan but don’t plan too much. Use Internet-based communication tools early and often. Your younger team members will thank you for it.

I’m interested in hearing what you have to think. Do you find different communication-style expectations to be generational or organizational? How have you dealt with these expectations, particularly when managing a project on the higher end of the agility scale?

This is the second of two posts from John as he discusses the differences and challenges in managing technical projects with a team comprised of people from different generational, and as a result technological, perspectives. Part 1 can be found here.

One Comment

  1. Posted August 27, 2008 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

    As a Millennial (I’m 23), I’d say that your points truly hit home with what I’ve been experiencing lately at work.

    I have a good relationship with my managers, and their style fits mine well…except when it comes to the communication tools we each prefer.

    It sounds odd writing this out, but I find it shocking that some workplaces are still using e-mail as a project management tool! We see e-mailing back and forth as such a huge drain on productivity that we can’t help but push for change to more collaborative software.

    The most successful combination:
    a manager that is open and welcome to Gen Y’s tech savvy ideas
    +
    a set of Gen Y employees that value the business and leadership skills that they can learn from their managers.


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