These are the characteristics you should look for

The Poke Champion

Thinking differently can be scary. It’s unfamiliar and often uncomfortable. It takes a lot of courage to change old ways of doing things. You need a person who’s unafraid to poke and challenge top management. Someone who dares to ask critical questions, take control and declare that the time for new insights and a new direction has come. She can potentially find new ideas and more efficient ways of working, and perhaps be brave enough to stop a project or investment that has little relevance or a slim chance of success.

The Macro Champion

This person preferably comes from the outside and can provide an analytical view of your organisation’s entire ecosystem, its products and services. She wants to grasp the big picture, including your business model, markets, trends, stakeholders and the customer experience throughout the user journey. She is a complexity cruncher and sees systems and logic where others merely see coincidences. With analytical skills and business understanding, she provides the fundamental answers to “where are we going?”, “how will we get there?” and “why will we be successful?”

The Future Navigator

Many businesses are threatened by new technology or new consumer behaviour. Design and future-driven innovation make you better prepared for this rapid development. When evaluating your vision and strategies also remember to look at the future trends affecting your business and try to make future predictions. The Future Navigator can help you build critical awareness by defining clear goals and future-proof service strategies.

The Design Evangelist

Designers do more than making things look sexy, they provide essential user insight and diagnose your product or service from a user’s perspective. Sometimes they want to save the Earth. Trust their methods and let them try. A true design evangelist isn’t instructive or arrogant about her wisdom, she visualises abstract processes and improvements until they are crystal clear to everyone. She humbly explains the argument behind her suggestions and she’s clear about what kind of feedback she wants in order to move on.

The Passionate Storyteller

In our era of doomsday and disruption, once your business, product or service has been thoroughly diagnosed, it’s time to turn this murky picture into opportunities and new energy. For this, you need someone who rolls up their sleeves and sees stories of hope – creative ideas and openings in the market. This person clarifies buzzwords and talks about concepts in a way we understand, and she makes us feel a joint responsibility for turning dark predictions into successful ventures. Above all, she will create lasting change because the story she tells gives everyone goosebumps and makes sense to top management, who will support her ambitions and cheer for results.

The Risk Champion

When new ways of working are about to be tested, whether it’s Lean Startup, Agile or custom variants, and you have a new team and unknown deliveries, it’s all about minimalising risk. It’s important to celebrate even when failing because when you fail, you learn. But fail fast. A new business idea can be prototyped and validated in a week (e.g. Google Ventures Design Sprint). The Risk Champion always aims to solve people’s problems better and more efficiently than anyone else. She might be the devil’s advocate, but she ensures proper focus and receives fast feedback from users. And she always has a plan B.

The Effect Champion

When the technology is available, and fancy features can make daily routines a game, developers tend to get overly excited, making bad choices for the product. Sometimes less is more. The team needs someone who can measure the effect of every little improvement. Otherwise how else will you know if you’re on the right path? The competition is tough, customer loyalty is for sale, people are constantly looking for a new fix. The Effect Champion is curious about the true user value of their product – she takes the warning signs seriously, adjusts the solution and builds trust, one feature at a time.

The Change Agent

Design-driven innovation, digital transformation, and self-organising teams: a former project manager has become a change agent who suddenly gets much more in her lap than before. Being a “canary in the coalmine” – always one step ahead – is about removing obstacles, improvising and preparing the team for leaps into the unknown. She needs to be an engaged motivator and coach, and facilitate relevant staffing and skill development, which all requires high social intelligence and compassion.

To summarise

Digital transformation offers opportunities and challenges far beyond the responsibility of an old-school project manager. The team needs new roles to ride the storms and navigate the moving targets. It’s unlikely you’ll find all of these characteristics in the same person (I’m all ears if you do!), but by mixing structured, committed, empathetic and visionary traits, you’ll be well-equipped for what’s around the corner.

Good luck hunting!

Thanks to my EGGS colleague Jørgen Solstad for the future role titles.