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PMI Belgium Annual Congress
6 October 2017
Project Manager Compass
PM Fair 2017
Productive Paradoxes in Projects
Ivo Velit...
About me
Entrepreneur
Manager (CEO, PM)Management Consultant
Enterprise Architect
@kvistgaard/in/velitchkov
First, some background…
What are the traditional 
management tools?
 Methodologies
 Best practices
 Frameworks
 Techniques
 Templates
 Corre...
Utility of prescriptive methods, best practices, and KPIs
complexity
helpful
harmful
lens frame
made to fit… 
The Brilliant metaphor 
Essential Balances in Projects
essentialbalances.com
Three years ago in Hasselt
One more pair of glasses today...
Projects as social systems
paradox
social systems
project as 
social systems
success <‐> satisfaction
trust
decisions
The plan
Paradox
This statement is false
self‐reference
Paradox
x2+1=0
self‐reference
+1=-1
Self‐reference
"Self-reference is the infinite in finite guise."
Louis H. Kauffman
z = z2+c
Zn+1 = zn
2+c
Mandelbrot
་བཞི
Catuṣkoṭi
being not being
neither
both
Laws of Thought
1.Everything that is, exists.
2.Nothing can simultaneously be and not be.
3.Each and every thing either is...
Hm, not always...
1.George Spencer‐Brown (mathematics): Calculus of Indications
2.Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela (...
Autopoiesis
Social Systems
communications
Reichel, A. (2011) ‘Snakes all the way down: Varela’s calculus for self-reference and the
praxis of paradise’, Systems Res...
Notation
=
Social Systems
Productive Misunderstanding
science
practice
“Productive Misunderstandings between Organization Science and Organization P...
Projects as Social Systems
decisions
(Productive) Misunderstanding in Projects
client
project
Growing interest in paradoxes but different perspectives
Organizational studies:
Paradoxes = tensions and 
contradictions ...
paradox
social systems
project as 
social systems
success <‐> satisfaction
trust
decisions
Decisions
decisions
communications
1
2
3
The paradoxes of decisions
"Only those questions which are in principle undecidable, we can decide“
Heinz von Foerster
1/3
The paradoxes of decisions
t1 t2
enable
produce
2/3
The paradoxes of decisions
what a decision is is a decision
3/3
Find more in “The Undecidability of Decision” by Niels Åke...
Decisions about
work structure people
work structure people
work structure people
programme
project
task
what how who
Some practical imp/app‐lications
 Managing constraints
 Habits for decision‐contraint patterns
 Discovery of hidden dep...
Managing constraints
 Deconstructing constraint “molecules”
 Suspending constraints to enable innovation
 Range of real...
constraints
constrained by
options
excluded due to
consideredalso feasible
… … …
ISSUES
RISKS
ACTIONS
DECISIONS
Date Options Constraints Decision
D‐121
D‐256
D‐017
D‐711
D‐452
D‐132
D‐981
D‐009
time
power
Project Objective: To implement “Business Analysis Dashboard” (BAD)
Approved “BAD” business case
“BAD” investme...
Trust
paradox
social systems
project as 
social systems
success <‐> satisfaction
trust
decisions
The paradoxes of Trust
The paradoxes of Trust
A B
The paradoxes of Trust
TRUST
KNOWLEDGE IGNORANCE
Trust is sustained by both knowledge and ignorance.
The value of Trust
Was always high but is now is growing due to:
 Technology sophistication ‐> working with more sub‐cont...
Trust Taxonomy
TRUST
basis
object strength
Team A
Team B
Stakeholders
Virtual teams
Different time, space, culture, history...
trust is most needed where it is most difficult to achieve
 Swif...
Confidence, Trust, Distrust
TRUST
CONFIDENCE
DISTRUST
risk
danger
quick slow
Trust and Distrust
Trust Distrust
Possibilities for action High Low
Additional support Not needed Necessary (e.g. contract...
Project Sucess and 
Client Satisfaction
paradox
social systems
project as 
social systems
success <‐> satisfaction
trust
d...
Observation 1: Local Optimum
Project metrics Enterprise metrics
Observation 2: Duality
Start End
Project KPIs Client satisfaction
The project
is successful
Start End 1+ years after
That project
was a
failure
That project
was
successful
The project
is a...
Is it useful?
End 1+ years afterStart
Does it work? Is it used?
The 4U test
Utility of prescriptive methods, best practices, and KPIs
complexity
helpful
harmful
 Measuring influences the measured
...
Objective
Objective subjectivity
(example: customer satisfaction metrics)
Also take context and history into account
Actual
(Productive) Misunderstanding in Projects
client
project
Two case studies from Australia
Source: “Project Management Yinyang: Coupling project success and client satisfaction”, 20...
Client 
Satisfaction
Project 
Success
Start A
B
C
Productive Paradoxes in Projects
 Working with paradoxes is an important skill for PMs
especially in situations with high...
Productive Paradoxes in Projects
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Productive Paradoxes in Projects

When organisation and projects are seriously regarded as social systems, the most striking realisation is that they are created by - and full of - paradoxes. Understanding and working with these paradoxes will help project managers deal with the increasing complexity when methodologies and good practices reach their limits of applicability and KPIs are not helpful anymore in steering projects. It will not be an easy task as the Western culture has been trying for centuries to avoid paradoxes. But the efforts will pay off. The new skills will bring unconventional and useful perspective on project communications and decisions. It will help realise and work with the unavoidable divergence between project success and client satisfaction. And it will bring new understanding of the function and dynamics of trust in projects.

These are the slides from my talk at the PMI Congress 2017 in Affligem, Belgium. It is an invitation to look at projects through social systems glasses, a complementary set to that of Essential Balances - http://www.essentialbalances.com/ .

You can watch the same slides with animations on YouTube: https://youtu.be/6QwIAqKl8mA .

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Productive Paradoxes in Projects

  1. 1. PMI Belgium Annual Congress 6 October 2017 Project Manager Compass PM Fair 2017 Productive Paradoxes in Projects Ivo Velitchkov @kvistgaard
  2. 2. About me Entrepreneur Manager (CEO, PM)Management Consultant Enterprise Architect @kvistgaard/in/velitchkov
  3. 3. First, some background…
  4. 4. What are the traditional  management tools?  Methodologies  Best practices  Frameworks  Techniques  Templates  Correlations  Over‐simplification  History (ignored)  Context (ignored)  Bad habits More on that at http://www.strategicstructures.com/?p=863
  5. 5. Utility of prescriptive methods, best practices, and KPIs complexity helpful harmful
  6. 6. lens frame made to fit…  The Brilliant metaphor 
  7. 7. Essential Balances in Projects essentialbalances.com Three years ago in Hasselt
  8. 8. One more pair of glasses today... Projects as social systems
  9. 9. paradox social systems project as  social systems success <‐> satisfaction trust decisions The plan
  10. 10. Paradox This statement is false self‐reference
  11. 11. Paradox x2+1=0 self‐reference +1=-1
  12. 12. Self‐reference "Self-reference is the infinite in finite guise." Louis H. Kauffman
  13. 13. z = z2+c Zn+1 = zn 2+c Mandelbrot
  14. 14. ་བཞི Catuṣkoṭi being not being neither both
  15. 15. Laws of Thought 1.Everything that is, exists. 2.Nothing can simultaneously be and not be. 3.Each and every thing either is or is not.
  16. 16. Hm, not always... 1.George Spencer‐Brown (mathematics): Calculus of Indications 2.Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela (biology): Autopoiesis 3.Niklas Luhmann (sociology): Social Systems Theory
  17. 17. Autopoiesis
  18. 18. Social Systems communications
  19. 19. Reichel, A. (2011) ‘Snakes all the way down: Varela’s calculus for self-reference and the praxis of paradise’, Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 28(4): 646-662 The form of Communication
  20. 20. Notation =
  21. 21. Social Systems
  22. 22. Productive Misunderstanding science practice “Productive Misunderstandings between Organization Science and Organization Practice:  The Science–Practice Relation from the Perspective of Niklas Luhmann’s Theory of Autopoietic Systems”, David Seidl
  23. 23. Projects as Social Systems decisions
  24. 24. (Productive) Misunderstanding in Projects client project
  25. 25. Growing interest in paradoxes but different perspectives Organizational studies: Paradoxes = tensions and  contradictions in organizations Social Systems: Paradoxes of self‐ reference produce  social systems and they  are everywhere, at  micro and macro level 
  26. 26. paradox social systems project as  social systems success <‐> satisfaction trust decisions Decisions
  27. 27. decisions communications 1 2 3
  28. 28. The paradoxes of decisions "Only those questions which are in principle undecidable, we can decide“ Heinz von Foerster 1/3
  29. 29. The paradoxes of decisions t1 t2 enable produce 2/3
  30. 30. The paradoxes of decisions what a decision is is a decision 3/3 Find more in “The Undecidability of Decision” by Niels Åkerstrøm Andersen 
  31. 31. Decisions about work structure people work structure people work structure people programme project task what how who
  32. 32. Some practical imp/app‐lications  Managing constraints  Habits for decision‐contraint patterns  Discovery of hidden dependancies
  33. 33. Managing constraints  Deconstructing constraint “molecules”  Suspending constraints to enable innovation  Range of realistic expectations  Configuration of constraints Natural limitation Decision-based limitation
  34. 34. constraints constrained by options excluded due to consideredalso feasible … … …
  35. 35. ISSUES RISKS ACTIONS DECISIONS Date Options Constraints Decision
  36. 36. D‐121 D‐256 D‐017 D‐711 D‐452 D‐132 D‐981 D‐009
  37. 37. time power Project Objective: To implement “Business Analysis Dashboard” (BAD) Approved “BAD” business case “BAD” investment approved  by the High IT Board  “BAD” selected, using SWOT  Prefer Buy to Build Trust Gartner  reports Use SWOT in  business cases,  decided by X  Recruit X,  decided by B  B can recruit,  decided by A  Start “BAD” project
  38. 38. Trust paradox social systems project as  social systems success <‐> satisfaction trust decisions
  39. 39. The paradoxes of Trust
  40. 40. The paradoxes of Trust A B
  41. 41. The paradoxes of Trust TRUST KNOWLEDGE IGNORANCE Trust is sustained by both knowledge and ignorance.
  42. 42. The value of Trust Was always high but is now is growing due to:  Technology sophistication ‐> working with more sub‐contractors  Virtual teams  Issues with the external trust “providers”  Complexity
  43. 43. Trust Taxonomy TRUST basis object strength
  44. 44. Team A Team B Stakeholders
  45. 45. Virtual teams Different time, space, culture, history... trust is most needed where it is most difficult to achieve  Swift trust  Factors*  Clear responsibilities  Complementary objectives  Handling of conflicts * According to the findings of  Jarvenpaa and Leidner  (see http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1083‐6101.1998.tb00080.x/full/)
  46. 46. Confidence, Trust, Distrust TRUST CONFIDENCE DISTRUST risk danger quick slow
  47. 47. Trust and Distrust Trust Distrust Possibilities for action High Low Additional support Not needed Necessary (e.g. contracts) Social order Simpler Complicated Transition to its opposite Quick Slow
  48. 48. Project Sucess and  Client Satisfaction paradox social systems project as  social systems success <‐> satisfaction trust decisions
  49. 49. Observation 1: Local Optimum Project metrics Enterprise metrics
  50. 50. Observation 2: Duality Start End Project KPIs Client satisfaction
  51. 51. The project is successful Start End 1+ years after That project was a failure That project was successful The project is a failure Observation 3: How the evaluation evolves A B
  52. 52. Is it useful? End 1+ years afterStart Does it work? Is it used? The 4U test
  53. 53. Utility of prescriptive methods, best practices, and KPIs complexity helpful harmful  Measuring influences the measured  Statistical challenges  The myth of objectivity
  54. 54. Objective Objective subjectivity (example: customer satisfaction metrics) Also take context and history into account Actual
  55. 55. (Productive) Misunderstanding in Projects client project
  56. 56. Two case studies from Australia Source: “Project Management Yinyang: Coupling project success and client satisfaction”, 2017  Greg Usher, Stephen Jon Whitty  Case  Study 1  (CS1) Industry PM Scope Budget Time Constructi on Same  as SC2 + 3  items ‐ 0.15 % ‐ 1.11 % Case  Study 2  (CS2) Industry PM Scope Budget Time Constructi on Same  as SC1 within + 40 % + 70 %
  57. 57. Client  Satisfaction Project  Success Start A B C
  58. 58. Productive Paradoxes in Projects  Working with paradoxes is an important skill for PMs especially in situations with high complexity and uncertainty  It will develop new habits and approaches to deal with communications, decisions,  trust, and risks  Misunderstanding between project team and customers  is unavoidable so PMs need two compasses SUMMARY @kvistgaard/in/velitchkov

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