Every decision is influenced by a range of preferences and biases. I touched on this subject last month in my ‘Voices on Project Management’ post for PMI (see the post) but the effect extends to every cost and time estimate, the way every communication is received and understood and every decision.
As part of our work to upgrade Mosaic’s PMP materials (see more on the updated course) to align with the new PMP Role Delineation Study, we have developed a White Paper focused on the causes of bias including our innate cognitive biases, learned biases and emotional affective factors.
It is impossible to remove many of these biases; but being aware of them allows their effects to be mitigated, too read more: Download the White Paper.
Posted in Communication, Scheduling, Stakeholder Management
Tagged Bias, Cognitive biases, Communication, Complex Decision Making, Complex Decisions, Decision Making, PMI Credentials, PMP, Project, Project Governance, Project Management, Project Management Training, Scheduling, Stakeholder Management
It has been a fascinating 24 hours in Australian politics. The former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was dumped and we now have our first female Prime Minister Julia Gillard. The unfolding drama was a mixture of ruthless efficiency in the coup to oust the previous Prime Minister, immediately followed by the start of a process of inclusion and healing.
Managers faced with difficult decisions can learn a lot from today’s events. My thoughts on several key issues are:
- Ethical dilemmas are always difficult and need decisions. As Henry Kissinger said: “Competing pressures tempt one to believe that an issue deferred is a problem avoided, more often it is a crisis invented”. There is no right answer to a dilemma, every option has a downside. Leaders choose a way forward and live with the consequences.
[See: Ethics and Leadership]
- When you do decide on a course of action, don’t hide the issues that created the dilemma in the first place, explain your reasoning and acknowledge both the greater good and the consequential harm. When a Deputy takes over from her leader there are inevitable questions of loyalty and trust, honest reasoning lets observers understand the reasons for the decision.
- Conversations and transformational negotiations lead to better outcomes than win-lose transactional negotiations but often you need to make the first concession to start down this path [see: Win-Win Negotiations]. The Government and the mining industry were locked in a head to head battle over a new tax. In the space of 5 hours the new Prime Minister had unilaterally cancelled government advertising over the issue and offered open negotiations. The mining industry had reciprocated and suspended their advertising campaign. The negotiations may or may not reach a consensus (no one like having their taxes increased) but both sides are likely to end up with a better outcome if the transformational negotiations work.
[See: Negotiating and Mediating]
- In a disagreement over principles, you only need to achieve your objective; you don’t need to destroy the other party. The former Prime Minister has been offered a position of his choosing in the new government. If accepted, this means his talents and knowledge are still available to the team. Reluctant allies are better than committed opponents.
It’s certainly been an interesting day watching a really effective communicator in action in action; I feel as though I have learned a lot.
Posted in Thoughts & Musings
Tagged Communication, Decision Making, Effective Communication, Ethical Dilemmas, Ethics, Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd, New Prime Minister, Project Governance, Stakeholder Management, Transformational negotiations, Win-Win
Complex decision making is a vital project management skill; required not only by the project manager but also by the project’s sponsor and client / customer among others.
Some of the key areas involving complex decisions include risk management, many aspects of planning (particularly optimising choices) and dealing effectively with issues and problems in a range of areas from scope and quality to cost and performance.
There is an underlaying assumption in project management (derived from traditional scientific management) that decisions will be based on a rational assessment of the situation to optimise outcomes. Unfortunately this is not true! As complexity increases assuming a ‘rational decision making paradigm’ becomes increasingly unrealistic. Human decision makers become ‘predictably irrational’.
Understanding the built in biases and ‘predictable irrational’ decision making processes used by people confronted with complex decisions can help managers requiring optimised decisions to craft strategies to minimise suboptimal outcomes. But where can busy project managers access this information?
I have just finished reading the most amazing paper on the subject that canvases the whole spectrum from risk aversion to behavioural economics in a practical, easy to read format; and it is free!
Behavioural economics and complex decision making: implications for the Australian tax and transfer system has been written by Andrew Reeson and Simon Dunsttall of the Australian national science agency, CSIRO. The report was commissioned by the ‘Henry Review’ into the Australian taxation system and is published on their web site. Whilst you can safely skip the last section which focuses on applying the knowledge to our tax system. The preceding 7 sections are focused on how people make complex decisions in any sphere and are just as relevant to complex project decisions as to complex investment and taxation decisions.
You can download this free resource from the review panel’s website: download the paper (a copy is also on the Mosaic web site on the assumption the Government site is temporary and will close once the Henry Review has reported: download from Mosaic).
If you find the report useful and you don’t live in Australia, you can buy the next Australian you meet a beer; it was his or her taxes that paid for this amazingly useful report. I know I will be keeping my copy handy for a very long time to come.
Posted in Complexity, Risk, Stakeholder Management
Tagged Benefits Realization, Communication, Complex Decision Making, Complex Decisions, complexity, Decision Making, probability, Project, Project Controls, Project Governance, Project Management, Project success, Stakeholder Management, Stakeholders