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The ‘4 Ages’ of Project Management

There are numerous different ways to approach the subject of collaboration within project management. Many of them relate to inter-team or inter-company communication and methods, put in place to ensure the project moves forward at its required speed. What is less discussed, however, is the relationship between different types of project managers, those from different eras or different schools of thought. The very nature of project management requires those involved to be somewhat paradoxical in their attitude – confident in their own practices but at the same time willing to adapt their processes to suit the project’s overall objectives.

Those at the top of the game are acutely aware of the need to ensure their ideas are able to incorporate other ways of thinking and working. What they are able to do is form collaborative relationships with those from different eras of project management in order to reach their desired target.

Teams are now not composed of single-minded people with one track minds. Project managers in the modern day need to collaborate with individuals with a diverse range of backgrounds and channel their attributes coherently towards the overall goals of the project in order to ensure optimum efficiency. A whole host of project management application vendors, including Microsoft, have explored the concept of project management styles depending on the era people were born. It’s an interesting theory, and one worth looking into a bit further.

The concept is centred on the theory of the ‘4 Ages’. The first age is of the Traditionalists. Generally consisting of older workers who have not yet gone into retirement (whether for financial reasons or a simple love and desire for the profession), these team members will have an extremely strong work ethic in order to prove their worth in a team where they are likely to be senior figures. Common character traits generally include an aversion to risk and attention to detail combined with – perhaps surprisingly – a long-term focus for the project and the team.

The second group are the Baby Boomers. Born in the late 1950s and the 1960s, they are by no means spring chickens but often offer a worthwhile dose of exuberance to couple with their vast experience. Like the Traditionalists, they also want to ensure some form of legacy but place an emphasis on the maintenance of relationships (either with clients or within the team) and being involved in key decisions. While there is a focus on personal growth it is somewhat tempered, if not outweighed, by a strong belief in team-work.

Next comes Generation-X. Extremely self-reliant (not to mention self-confident), this group has a strong tendency to express a great sense of individualism within a project or team. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however, as their own drive causes them to be extremely results-focused. Also armed with creative, flexible tendencies, members of this group are often considerable forces behind successful project management teams.

Finally, we have the Millennials. Extremely computer-literate, not to mention the fact that they carry out tasks with the kind of enthusiasm to be expected of the younger generations, these upstarts provide a foundation for any form of ideas bank that a project management team may operate. Diversity, immediacy and hunger are common traits, along with optimism – perhaps the most valuable of all.

While it would be ill-informed of us to think that these sweeping generalisations can be applicable to everyone, it does raise some interesting points regarding inter-team collaboration and ways of understanding points of conflict between various members. People who cannot relate to the way others think are unlikely to fulfil their potential within the project management industry.

When managing a project, it is as important to ensure you have the right balance within your team as it is to approach the task in a structured, controlled manner. Through PRINCE2 training, you will be able to harness the qualities that allow for working processes that are both streamlined and defined. People may not always be able to see eye to eye, but with logical procedure and a common goal in sight, there is no reason why your team should suffer from costly internal conflicts. If you take a step back and look at your team, applying some empathy may be the deciding factor when turning clashes into collaborations.