Skip to main content

Characteristics of a Sustainable Project Manager (3 of 9) “Change Agent”

This third installment of Characteristics of a Sustainable Project Manager focuses on the “Change Agent.”

Peter Drucker is famous for many quotes, none more so than “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic.”

Characteristic #3: Change Agent — challenges business-as-usual mindset, embraces change, seizes opportunities, develops new ideas, acts positively, is opportunistic, interacts well with others.

On the surface, someone with experience in managing projects or is business savvy would read these and say “duh, everyone knows this.” Let’s be clear though. Managing projects using the atypical programming that most PMs have does not include this. It is my observation that the vast majority of project managers simply do what they are told. This needs to follow ToysRus, Fuji Film, and BlockBuster Video to the annals of death by non-innovation.

In order to achieve a lasting change in any endeavor, the focus on how change is managed is ten times more important than what the expected outcome is.

Projects = change. According to Mckinsey, 70 percent of complex, large-scale change programs don’t reach their stated goals. They state that common pitfalls are:

  1. Lack of employee engagement
  2. Inadequate management support
  3. Poor or nonexistent cross-functional collaboration
  4. Lack of accountability.

They go on to state that sustaining a transformation’s impact typically requires a major reset in mindsets and behaviors—something that few leaders know how to achieve.

Where does that leave project managers?

Look around you right now. How many products that you depend on every day are the outcome of a project and at that, how many are in their second or third generation or more?  Anyone still using their original iPhone?  How about a blackberry? This takes me back to the opening Drucker quote.  Do you manage projects using old logic? …no saying “I use agile” doesn’t cut it, sorry.

In today’s world, disruption and turbulence by upstarts are scarier to C-Suite than the biggest competitor.  Outside-the-box thinking, innovation, and the war on business-as-usual are the driving forces of business disruption.  Examples such as Purple Mattress, Uber/Grab/Lyft/, and AirBnB are just a few.

In order to transcend from your everyday project manager to a change agent, the related traits must define who you are, not a mere aspiration or goal.

Think about some of your projects and ask yourself the following questions.

  1. Do I engage project sponsors and stakeholders by asking “why are we doing this?”, “how will this be integrated, adopted, and more importantly accepted?”, and “have we considered all of the impacts?”
  2. Am I willing to forego an older approach to try something new?
  3. Do I regularly seek out opportunities for improvement if there are benefits to be realized (even if they might be out of scope) and recommend them for consideration?
  4. Would others say that I am a positive and influential leader?
  5. Do I stay cool during a conflict and am I a master at resolving ambiguity?

The more you can answer yes to these questions, the better position you are in to lead sustainable projects.

Keeping track of the series.

# Characteristic
1 Benefits Focused
2 Inclusive Leader
3 Change Agent

For more on Sustainable Project Management, check out our new book from on or the iBooks store.

ibooks  Amazon-order.png

Dr. Joel Carboni

Dr. Joel Carboni has over 24 years of experience in project, program, and portfolio management, having led Aerospace, Finance, Government, and Technology initiatives. He has a Ph.D. in Sustainable Development and Environment, is a Certified Senior Project Manager (IPMA Level B®), and Certified Green Project Manager (GPM®). He is the founder and president of GPM Global and the President Emeritus of the International Project Management Association USA (IPMA-USA) He is a medal of honor recipient from Universidad Autonoma Lisboa, AI Media's Leading Advisor Award 2017, the 2015 World CSR Congress Leadership Award, 2014 HRD Leadership & Training Award, and 2013 IPMA Achievement Award. He has lectured on or taught sustainable project management in 50 countries worldwide.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Get the latest posts delivered to your mailbox:

Clef two-factor authentication
%d bloggers like this: