The Competent PM – An Integrative Thinker

October 17, 2009

Whether facing project planning, problem solving or decision making, our approach will make a significant difference in the outcome.  Do you normally use a linear algorithm approach of breaking a situation into smaller pieces, focusing on critical variables, driving to either/or solutions?  Or, do you find yourself synthesizing opposing ideas, discordant information, accepting complexity, and maintaining a holistic perspective?

The former approach is works fine for simpler and straight forward projects, but But wait, there’s more

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Is the Enemy Us or Fate? (5 of 5)

October 15, 2009

Dealing with Ambiguous Situations

Ambiguous situations are usually characterized by conflicting signals, signals intertwined with background noise, disconnection between actions and events, and suspension of expected cause-effect relationship.  We are in the reaches of complexity, non-linearity, and/or discontinuities; our cognitive biases don’t fit, the situation doesn’t align with any of our mental frames, we can’t recall past analogies.  What is one to do?

The phrase that comes to mind is, “think outside the box”.  Isn’t that where we are with an ambiguous situation; outside our box?  But wait, there’s more


Is the Enemy Us or Fate? (4 of 5)

October 14, 2009

Reasoning by Analogy

To reason by analogy; recognize a past experience is similar to the current situation, evaluate what did and didn’t work in the past situation, make a choice about what to do and definitely not do.  Certainly analogical reasoning differentiates the novice from the grizzled veteran PM, based on the sheer number of stored past experiences.

For example, if you are defining the scope of a computer server development project and have worked on similar projects, experience will tell you that the printed circuit (PC) boards will require multiple prototypes (“turns”) before a workable version is obtained.  But wait, there’s more


Is the Enemy Us or Fate? (3 of 5)

October 13, 2009

Mental Frames

A mental framework is the model we use to simplify the complex and ambiguous world around us; it contains our assumptions on how the world works, our values and our beliefs.  In actuality we have multiple mental frames, one or more dealing with each aspect of life, some competing.

Consider your PM frame, if I refer to an organization’s PMO, what are your assumptions about the PMO?  What functions does the PMO fulfill?  Is the PMO a business or project construct? But wait, there’s more


Is the Enemy Us or Fate? (2 of 5)

October 12, 2009

Cognitive Biases

A totally rational person (enter Mr. Spock) would collect a lot of information, analyze many alternatives and only then arrive at the best decision.  However, what we typically do is ration our time by using shortcuts, like rules of thumb, past experiences, recent events, etc.; we satisfice.  Because we are not totally rational human beings, we have cognitive limitations.  These biases affect our perspectives, decisions and actions.  Everyone has them and most are based on our individual life experiences.  But wait, there’s more


Is the Enemy Us or Fate? (1 of 5)

October 11, 2009

One recent morning I was enjoying the company of my peers at the monthly PMI-Silicon Valley Chapter’s PMO Breakfast meeting.  As usual the conversation had degraded (a hardware perspective) to a discussion of software methodologies, that day specifically: When using Agile, how do you handle …?  Then out of the blue one of the participants threw a perspective on the table – “From the outset, all projects are doomed to failure.”  Interesting pronouncement!  My corollary; the PM’s role is to snatch projects from the jaws of defeat (?). But wait, there’s more