How Organizations Can Become Project-Based In The Future Of Work

The nature of work is changing: Companies are increasingly thinking of work as project-based rather than role-based. We’re moving toward a project-based economy, and this shift toward the future of work is accelerating due to the pandemic. The more you can think of work as project-based versus role-based, the more agile your team and organization will be.

What Is Project-Based Work?

Project-based work has clear goals, milestones, and deliverables, and a defined start and end date. Projects may take hours or months or longer — the duration varies with every project and business need. But the work is aligned against business needs and objectives, not specific roles.

The Benefits Of Project-Based Work

As business leaders, we all want our teams to be agile and nimble, and embracing a project-based work mindset helps you increase speed and agility. A recent MIT and Deloitte report found that executives are increasingly thinking of their workforce as an ecosystem — drawing on the diverse skill sets of their universes of full-time workers and freelancers to meet business challenges.

With a project-based approach, you can innovate faster, quickly pulling skills internally and externally as needed. You can also operate more efficiently, dialing up and down skill-based resources by drawing on your workforce ecosystem.

How To Shift From A Role-Based To A Project-Based Organization

So, increasing agility, innovating more quickly, operating more efficiently, etc. — it all sounds ideal, but how do you evolve from a traditional, role-based organization to one that is project-based? There are a few critical steps to support success in this journey.

1. Change work definitions: First, you have to redefine the work. And this is an ongoing effort, not a one-time fix. Consider your immediate, short-term, and long-term objectives. How do you define these objectives in terms of projects? What skill sets do these projects need? Consider how your current workforce maps against these opportunities. Which skills do you need to source from freelancers and contractors? By developing what Deloitte calls “an adaptable network of teams,” you can build the flexible organization you need. Using a consulting firm that is experienced in project-based work can help you shift away from role-based work.

2. Focus on planning: For this model to work well, you must put an ongoing emphasis on planning. One of the advantages of working with on-demand talent is that you can pull in resources at short notice. However, when shifting to an overall project-based work approach, you need to plan ahead and have a project road map. Your road map will continually evolve to adapt to business strategy and needs, but you should always be thinking about the next project(s), particularly for your full-time employees.

3. Evaluate your processes: A flexible, on-demand workforce will not function well without robust processes and communications. The probability of redundancies, missed handoffs and other unforced errors will only increase when some or most of the team delivering the work includes freelancers, contractors, and consultants. Also, consider how you can improve the connections and communications with your team.

4. Build your talent bench: As you map the skills of your full-time employees against project-based work, you’ll find areas where you may need additional resources or different skill sets. Developing a bench of external talent makes it easy to pull in the right skill sets when and where you need them. I’ve shared my tips for building and integrating your on-demand workforce — this advice can help you scale your flexible workforce.

5. Hire and train for critical thinking skills: Soft skills, like adaptability and self-motivation, are essential in the future of work. Critical thinking is one of the keys to success with project-based work. Asking the right questions is critical. Employees and freelancers need to ensure they have the right level of clarity and detail so costs and effectiveness aren’t compromised.

Project-Based Work Is The Future Of Work

Not only how we work is shifting toward project-based work, but also how we hire team members and promote our own experiences. In the future of work, roles and buzzword-filled online profiles will become less important while project-based identities become more meaningful.

A project-based work model can help your team be more nimble and innovative. It’s time to start thinking about your team’s skill ecosystem and how you can organize and deliver in a project-based environment.

This article was originally published in Forbes.

Yolanda Lau is an experienced entrepreneurship consultant, advisor, and Forbes Contributor. She is also an educator, speaker, writer, and non-profit fundraiser.

Since 2010, she has been focused on preparing knowledge workers, educators, and students for the future of work.

Learn more about Yolanda here.

10 Reasons to Hire an Independent Consultant

By Yolanda Lau

We’ve all heard that the “gig economy” is the future of work. Estimates put the number of Americans doing freelance work between 54 million and 90 million. In particular, there’s been an increase in the number of freelance strategy and management consultants, as well as marketplaces and platforms connecting businesses to independent consultants. Boutique sites like SpareHireHourlyNerdMBA and CompanyHillgateToptal Business (formerly Skillbridge) and 79 Studios’ own FlexTeam make top quality consultants more accessible to and affordable for smaller businesses.

As a CEO or founder of a small or medium business, you may benefit from hiring an external independent consultant. And once you do, you may find that you can’t work without them. Here’s why:

1. Independent Consultants are Affordable and Provide Cost Savings. Freelance independent consultants are cheaper than hiring a full-time employee. They require fewer overhead costs, in terms of office space, software licenses, benefits, paid time off, payroll tax, and other fixed payroll and office expenses. Moreover, while they often come at higher hourly rates than full-time or part-time staff, you’ll rarely pay them for 2,080 hours a year. And hiring a freelance independent consultant is much more affordable than engaging McKinsey & CompanyBoston Consulting GroupBain & Company, or any of the less well-known firms.

2. Independent Consultants are Experts. Freelance independent consultants tend to be highly skilled, extremely experienced, and educated at top universities. Many freelancers have worked at a big name consulting firm or are industry experts. At FlexTeam, we provide vetted MIT-educated women who are former CTOs, CMOs, COOs, CEOs, investment bankers, management consultants, industry experts, graphic designers, serial entrepreneurs turned consultants, and other top tier talent. Hiring freelance consultants gives you access to skills and experience levels that would come at a much higher price tag if you were to hire them as full-time workers, allowing you to scale your business efficiently and economically.

3. Independent Consultants are Ready to Go. Freelance independent consultants can work independently with little guidance. They have almost certainly worked on many similar projects in the past, and will efficiently work on yours. They hit the ground running and don’t require training, saving you time and money. And your patience.

4. Independent Consultants are Flexible. Freelance independent consultants are highly flexible and adaptable. They can augment your existing teams, or they can work on their own on special projects. FlexTeam, specifically, augments your management teams with on-demand executive level brainpower. Freelancers’ flexibility allows them to adapt to your company culture and the specific needs of your company, thus producing better quality results.

5. Independent Consultants are Easy to Hire. Freelance independent consultants can be hired within a few days. Compare that to engaging a consulting firm or hiring a full-time or part-time employee, which can be a lengthy (and sometimes unsuccessful) process. There are interviews, negotiations, compliance and legal issues, and other time-consuming aspects of the traditional hiring process.

6. Independent Consultants are Committed to Excellence. Freelance independent consultants are committed to customer success and happiness. They recognize that their ability to get future work is dependent on the quality of every work product they create. Since their livelihood is at stake, they are more committed than consultants employed by traditional firms.

7. Independent Consultants are Professional. Freelance independent consultants usually spend time upfront clearly scoping detailed projects. They like to work on deadlines with specific milestones and deliverables. They have their own consulting agreements, though many are happy to sign one provided by your company.

8. Independent Consultants Understand the Importance of Confidentiality. Freelance independent consultants work with dozens of clients across industries on varying projects. They are accustomed to working with confidential information and are comfortable signing Nondisclosure Agreements. Again, their livelihood depends on the quality of their work and keeping their word.

9. Independent Consultants Meet Short Term Needs. Freelance independent consultants allow businesses to meet their short term needs without the time-consuming, frustrating, and costly process of hiring full-time or part-time employees. With freelance consultants, companies can hire an on-demand Chief Marketing Officer to craft a marketing strategy, a Chief Operating Officer to create a strategic growth plan, an analyst to assess new markets or create a financial model, a data scientist to figure out your KPIs, an experienced entrepreneur to write your business plan, and more. All just for a short sprint at the right price.

10. Independent Consultants are Always Available. Freelance independent consultants work irregular hours, often more than 5 days a week. Since they work odd hours and don’t have to operate during business hours, they can work on your project when you need it done. Given clear milestones, deliverables, and deadlines, they create time to get the work done optimally.

Still not convinced? Try hiring a freelance independent consultant for one small project. Just a small investment of about a thousand dollars. You’ll see that once you outsource work to a freelancer or a team of independent consultants, you’ll gain breathing room to tackle the rest of your endless to-do list.

Yolanda Lau is an experienced entrepreneurship consultant, advisor, and Forbes Contributor. She is also an educator, speaker, writer, and non-profit fundraiser.

Since 2010, she has been focused on preparing knowledge workers, educators, and students for the future of work.

Learn more about Yolanda here.