Habitual Canards of Project Management guide, Managing clients tips, UAE property construction advice

The Habitual Canards of Project Management

3 November 2021

Article for e-architect by Romi Sebastian, Senior Project Manager, UAE

The majority of the knowledge about project management we are aware of is definitely beneficial and effective, however, some of this acquired knowledge may not be recognized and applied in the right manner.

It is important that Project Managers today take effort to identify and scrutinize available/acquired knowledge and filter out the ‘fantasies’ that linger in our professional work routines. Once these project management fantasies or ‘canards’ are studied and identified, it develops into our best defense and may make our work more effective along with reducing any unnecessary risk in our ability to complete projects proficiently.

Habitual Canards of Project Management

The Canard of Positivism and Optimism

The misconception that if one trusts that we can accomplish a particular project/task, we’re more likely to actually achieve it; and contrariwise, if one expresses any doubts about achieving something, we’re less likely to execute it ultimately.

The use of this canard is always tempting to project leaders who intend to persuade unwilling teams to challenge and commit to doing the impossible. This is also often used as an excellent manipulation tool.

In my view, being Factual and Truthful is most critical and important. Project Managers need to exhibit positive behavior when it’s appropriate, and at the same time express doubts when they’re real and pertinent. Staying positive in the charade of Doubts can lead to ruin in the long run.

Misconception of Villain Performer

If a project team demonstrates a frequent array of failure, immediately it is assumed that a villain performer exists and this single team member is the likely cause of the failure problem.

Attributing the cause of a project team problem to a single person is easy and attractive because it suggests that dealing with a single party can resolve the problem, with no need for time taking and expensive team interventions.

More typically multiple members contribute to project/team problems and hence ruling out a single individual for the Team’s failure to perform, can be most of the times, the wrong approach.

The Experience Myth

It is widely accepted that documented experience, education, seniority, or past performance — always correspond to abilities of a team member. For example, if a particular project manager ran a few projects that failed, it is often concluded that the person is ultimately incapable and thereby ruled out.

To evaluate the actual capabilities of a person or a team, it is not enough that past credentials and education is considered, but contextual factors should also be part of the scrutiny.

The Canard of Head count Productivity

There always a belief that if each person produces one hour of output in period of one hour, we can then substitute people for one another for any other project/task.

It is a fact that very few people can perform/accomplish certain tasks. Organizations and team leaders should take lessons from previous experiences wherein overloading key people have caused time delays, commercial impacts and high staff turnover. The assumption that an elephant can carry as much an ant can, will cause project failures.

The fallacy of Risk Identification

In project risk management, we habitually estimate the probabilities of certain events – We don’t realize that there always is an inherent difficulty in imagining or understanding the actual string of events that can lead to a particular risk.

Human judgment and decision making- referred to as ‘availability heuristic’ operates on the notion that if something can be recalled, it must be important, or at least more important than alternative solutions which are not as readily recalled. People tend to heavily weigh their judgments toward more recent information, making new opinions/views biased.

Mere speculation and instinctive estimation is unlikely to produce reliable results for recording and monitoring risk. Let us strive to primarily use real historical data, documented lessons, and error records to estimate risks rather than solely depend on human speculation and instinct.

The Final Canard of ignorance

One more notion, that is perhaps the most misleadingly common – is that we all fail to acknowledge that we habitually experience and use the aforementioned canards and management misconceptions. Project management success comes if one is able to recognize and hold yourself back when you are required to do.

References: [Tversky] Tversky, A., and Kahneman, D. “Availability: a heuristic for judging frequency and probability.” Cognitive Psychology 5, 207-232, (1973).

Romi Sebastian

Romi Sebastian Senior Project Manager, UAE

Romi Sebastian is a Senior Project Manager brought up in the UAE and has been working in the Middle East with top tier firms for the past two decades. He holds a strong interest in the fields of Organic architecture and Bio-Mimetics. Apart from his passions for charcoal rendering, Romi writes on a broad range of subjects for national newspapers, magazines and web-journals.

Comments on this guide to Habitual Canards of Project Management article are welcome.

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