Scatterwork Guest: Beware of Project Bias

Share this page:

Project Bias or how our psychology undermines perceptions and decisions.

Projects are meant to be diligent,almost scientific undertakings with carefully planned business cases, weighted risks and detailed procedures and governance. But the reality is that everyone is biased and these biases affect the way we see the world, the assumptions we make and the basis for all our decisions.

The problem with any bias is when it’s unconscious. If you know for example that you tend to be over-optimistic in your view of the future,then you can make sure other people know this about you and you can take particular care to make sure you have mitigated any risks may cause.

My name is Jonathan Norman. I’m the publisher at Gower Publishing and I’m going to share a couple of striking examples of project bias and offer you some advice on how to deal with it.

We all like to believe what we want to believe and as a result we all fall foul of confirmation bias from time to time.

Arguably project managers are more prone than others because there’s so much pressure to provide hard evidence when he you’re making a business case or advocating a change.

Essentially confirmation biases are inclination to put unjustified weight behind selected pieces of evidence because they support or confirm some aspect of our Project. I suspect that illusion of control is the most challenging bias for project managers not least because people expect us to be in control.

But don’t ever be tempted to assume that because you’re planning your schedule map out the way a project will run that you control the project.

Remember, if you ever find your risk riding superhuman power to your ability to deliver outcomes the benefits associated with your project and only be realized by the users and if you think you can control customers, employees or other users,then clearly you are deluding yourself.

In many situations including projects, people resist change and this is a really compelling reason to do it, most often because we believe the changes will make things worse.

Look at the recent FIFA elections and the re-election Sepp Blatter. How many of those voting were more concerned about what the absence of Sepp might do to the continued commercial success of FIFA and investment in football in their country than they were by the prospect of a fifth term with Sepp.

I’m not telling you about project bias to trip you up or make you feel bad about yourself or other people but here are five simple tactics you can use to mitigate the problem.

The first thing is to recognize that project bias happens. Everyone is subject to bias.

Secondly, try to keep things simple. Bias is far more apparent in situations where decisions and solutions are transparent.

Thirdly, ask yourself what happens if i’m wrong or if we are wrong. Just because something is unlikely doesn’t mean it will never happen. Make sure you have a backup plan.

Fourthly, check the sources of your information. Risk registers and benefit maps can look imposing and authoritative but to what extent are they based simply on someone’s perception as opposed to actual research.

Finally be suspicious of your bias, particularly if it is pronounced and particularly if you’re dealing with a genuinely new situation but it’s hard to categorize on the basis of prior knowledge. But don’t discount you bias out of hand. Biases are developed from our experience of prior events so they can be very useful radar systems if something is going wrong.

Thank you for listening.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

LinkedIn: Connect with me

Please share with colleagues, who also get 10% off their first booking.

Share this page:

Use Games to Build your Virtual Team

Share this page:

 

Hello and welcome to this short video from Scatterwork about using games to build your virtual team. Virtual teams needs defined operating agreements, they need to implement rituals and they need to share planning.

Now, operating agreements, ground rules or whatever you like to call them are essential so the people operate in more or less the same way.

For example somebody may have made strenuous effort to get to a meeting on time or maybe they had to put a baby to bed or change your flight. So not sticking to the agreed time can have big consequences so it’s better to have rules.

Rituals help the momentum when systems fail.So for example when a call is held at the same time every day but the link drops out but because it’s a ritual,the parties spend several minutes trying to reestablish contact.

If it wasn’t a ritual they were just go offline and the work would not get done. And then chairing the planning:
engagement is lacking if planning is simply imposed but that’s much more true in the virtual environments.

For example how work is done can be very local so telling people what to do is not always the best way to do it.

But when it’s completed, it’s shared with the whole team and that’s an issue for the team as a whole.

So the question is: where is the glue that holds the team of people together and the suggestion is that games can be used to help build a virtual team. Think if the games that people play at parties to speed up the process of getting to know everybody. And these days there are a lot of shared applications so that several people can log in at once and use them and they’re great tools for games.

So here’s one: your virtual team needs to introduce its members to others (think Facebook terms) so put the members in groups of three and by having them in separate groups, then you’ll get more ideas than if you put them all in one team.

Then tell them within each team to connect with each other by text or voice and then find out how to connect with
Google slides or some other application, where several people can join in at the
same time and then develop a page to introduce the people in the team. And then afterwards bring all the teams back together and hold a competition to select the best page.

But this is very useful because even the fact of producing a page together with photos and text generates interaction and the interaction, notice, cannot even start without real time communication. And the team learns how to access a cooperative working space which can be used for other things.

So if you find this interesting remember that Scatterwork supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams and the contact details are on this page.

Thanks very much.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

LinkedIn: Connect with me

Please share with colleagues, who also get 10% off their first booking.

Share this page:

Leave unsafe travel environments behind

Share this page:

Here is a short video from Scatterwork about the benefits of avoiding unsafe environments while traveling in the interest of training or coordination of virtual teams. We all know that it’s never 100 percent safe to travel. Everyday of the week there are car accidents and trains and much evidence of unsafe travel. We just have to accept that and get on with our business. Very often the alternative is poor telephone conferences, not very effective web meetings and so forth. One of the ways of counteracting ineffective meetings is to build more structure into how the meeting is held, how it’s supported and so forth. This is a skill that a virtual team will have. So, I’d like to suggest that to you. If you have project activities that need to be supported and you’d like to do it without traveling, do get in touch with me and we’ll see how we can help. Thanks very much.

In the modern world, the optimal solution may not be traditional
face-to-face training that everybody likes and finds very effective, but
virtual training. Please help us to rank our list of virtual training
features: Can Virtual Training replace traditional events? (5 minute survey)

Also, if you have any queries, then please select a time to call or send a message.

Invite your colleagues to sign up for the Scatterwork Newsletter and they will also get a 10% reduction on their first workshop.

Share this page:

How to schedule global meetings

Share this page:

Hello this is Deasun î Conchœir from Scatterwork to talk about an issue that should be simple but frequently causes a lot of effort and frustration, how to schedule meetings across time zones.

The first guideline is to recognize that scheduling is an iterative process. So that means messages that come over and back. It requires quite a lot of messages to find the exact time. This can’t be done instantaneously. People who sit in the same office they say yes, no, check that out and so on. But, when you’re working in a distributed environment it takes longer for the process to take place. In addition to that, we have to treat it as a process and not just something that happens in the background.

Guideline number two is to use a scheduling tool that converts time zones automatically to find possible meeting times. If this is done, then the individuals get suggestions and they can read them in their own time zone and so on. It really is not practicable to send things are you available in this time zone. And, of course, if there are errors, the meeting doesn’t take place.

The third guideline is to offer as many time options as possible. If a very limited number of options is sent out, we find that no solution emerges and then we have to repeat two or three days later. So, it saves time just do it in the beginning.

The fourth guideline is to broadcast the options as far in advance as possible. I’ve seen situations where people need three or four meetings over a period of a couple of weeks, maybe six weeks in advance. People always have their diaries full closer to the current time. So, by going out as far in advance as possible, it gives a better chance of finding workable times.

Guideline number five is to not allow individuals to dictate their preferences before starting. If they do, then that limits the choice that is setup and the process doesn’t start. It’s much better to try and recognize these but not to force it on the system and offer lots of options. It may turn out that most of the people are available for a particular time and we have to go back and negotiate. In fact, not even the boss should be allowed to dictate times at the beginning. It should really be done on an open basis and that we find works best.

When we send out requests for availability, we should have a time limit on the reply, for example, 24 hours. Otherwise, people will come back four or five days later and undo the effort that you were putting into the scheduling.

Guideline number seven has already been mentioned in passing. If we look at the feedback from this process and find most people are free for a particular time, we can go back and ask the other person are they really, really not free at the given time. It might have been a preference rather than an absolute. For example, people don’t like to work late at night. But, obviously if they are in an airplane they usually can’t talk.

Guideline number eight is to close the process and say this time was decided. Then, send out a separate invitation with that time. This will make sure that it will show up in everyone’s calendar with their time zone.

So, there you have it. Treat setting up meetings as a process. Do it over a longer period of time. Use a tool that converts time zones and insist on having a wide variety of options.

So, I hope that works for you. If I can help you in any way, please feel free to contact me.

In the modern world, the optimal solution may not be traditional face-to-face training that everybody likes and finds very effective, but virtual training. Please help us to rank our list of virtual training features: Can Virtual Training replace traditional events? (5 minute survey)

Also, if you have any queries, then please select a time to call or send a message.

Invite your colleagues to sign up for the Scatterwork Newsletter and they will also get a 10% reduction on their first workshop.

Share this page:

Scatterwork Guest: How do you see your project?

Share this page:

My name is Jonathan Norman from Gower Publishing,  a guest of Scatterwork GmbH, and I’d like to introduce you to a new platform we have developed for project and program managers, GpmFirst. In order to do so, I’ve taken a particular theme, which is the question of how do you see your project, and how do others see your project. I’ve chosen this subject for a couple of reasons. It introduces the premise that human psychology is a powerful influence in projects, and their success or failure, and it also underlines one of the key features of the new project community of practice that I mentioned.

Let’s just tackle these elements in order. In each case, I’ve used screen dumps from the community practice to illustrate my points. First of all, how does our psychology influence projects and their success or failure? Have a look at this image that was created by the wonderful writer Gareth Morgan, and is used in our book, “Images or Projects”. Imagine that this is a picture of your project, what do you see? A pig, but it isn’t as simple as that.

Have a look at each of the people around the edge of the image, let’s call them the stakeholders of your project. Put yourself in their shoes, and now look again at the pig, what does each of them see?

To the farmer, the pig represents his livelihood, a source of income. To the butcher, the pig represents a series of joints and cuts, bacon, ham, and so on. To the vet, the pig represents a potential patient. To the little girl, the pig represents the start of a nursery story, you get the point.

The point I’m trying to make is that you need to put yourself in the shoes of your stakeholders and ask yourself, how do they see my project, do they see it differently from the way I see it? What implications does this have on how I should communicate with them, or manage my project?

Once you understand the importance of perception, you’ll understand the idea of a playlist, which is a feature in the platform, www.gpmfirst.com. Rather than simply presenting content in the site in the way that we, our moderator, or our expert authors think it should be presented, we’ve included a feature that allows you to add any elements of the site, chapter, books, user generated articles, videos, community discussion threads, and indeed external links into your end playlist, which you can commentate.

Think of it as your own personal scrapbook of how you see a given theme, or a problem, in project management. Once you’ve created your playlist, and here’s one I created earlier using chapters from our books around the theme of perception in projects, you can share it with others by social media or email, and it will become a part of the searchable content on the platform, so that other users can benefit from how you see projects, or an aspect of project management.

Thank you for listening. If how I see projects peaked your interest, than I hope you’ll take a moment to visit this site to explore the new platform, and to get a sense of how you might use it. I’ve included my contact details on this final slide, so if you’d like to know more, than just go to the website, or contact me directly by email. Thank you very much.

Invite your colleagues to sign up for the Scatterwork Newsletter and they will also get a 10% reduction on their first workshop.

Share this page:

Time Management

Share this page:

Hello this is Deasún Ó Conchúir from Scatterwork to introduce another little anecdote from my book, “Overview of the PMBOK Guide.” This one is to do with time management and the point is that we don’t usually need permission to use time. We can be late and we say, “We’re sorry.” For money, we have to ask permission in advance to sign it in principle. The story here is very short and I once worked in a company where long coffee breaks were normal. Nobody seemed to need permission. It just happened. Even if we were told to take shorter breaks, we could still have taken the usual long ones. If management demanded an explanation, we would excuse ourselves and probably do the same in the next day. In fact, we would probably say we were using the coffee break for a deep discussion.

In the modern world, the optimal solution may not be traditional face-to-face training that everybody likes and finds very effective, but virtual training. Please help us to rank our list of virtual training features: Can Virtual Training replace traditional events? (5 minute survey)

Also, if you have any queries, then please select a time to call or send a message.

Invite your colleagues to sign up for the Scatterwork Newsletter and they will also get a 10% reduction on their first workshop.

Share this page:

Do you use Expert Judgement?

Share this page:

 

Hello this is Deasún Ó Conchúir from Scatterwork with another anecdote from my book, Overview of the PMBOK Guide. This time, it relates to expert judgement. Now expert judgement is something that we use to help us decide what to do in projects, and we as experts and we ask consultants, we ask senior managers and so on. Sometimes, the experts are not so visible, and as we see in this particular real story.

I once visited a factory making radiators for heating buildings. It was located near the Atlantic coast in the far north west of Ireland. The radiators were getting damaged in transit and various experts were asked to find out what the problem was. Eventually it was discovered that the packaging wasn’t good enough to protect the radiators on the road journey. In those days, the roads were really not good, and it was the delivery lorry driver who identified the problem.

Luckily, they were clever enough to include this experienced person in their investigations. Even though few would have called him an expert, but indeed his expert judgement was the thing that saved the day.

In the modern world, the optimal solution may not be traditional face-to-face training that everybody likes and finds very effective, but virtual training. Please help us to rank our list of virtual training features: Can Virtual Training replace traditional events? (5 minute survey)

Also, if you have any queries, then please select a time to call or send a message.

Current testimonial:

Kai Halbach, Coordination SIA Form Suisse romande

In unserem Webinar zum Thema “Gestion des risques” hat Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir seine langjährigen Erfahrungen zum Thema Risikomanagement sehr interaktiv, professionell und gut verständlich an die Architekten und Ingenieure vermitteln können. Wir danken Ihm für das hervorragende Webinar!

Read more testimonials like this one here!

Share this page:

Why use Project Management?

Share this page:

Hello this is Deasún Ó Conchúir from Scatterwork, and I’m here to bring you an anecdote from my book, Overview of the PMBOK guide.

Once upon a time, as all good children’s stories begin, there was a very important project. It was so important that the advisers convinced this local company with headquarters in Europe to start implementing it immediately. After about 12 million Euro had been spent, the team thought it would be a good idea to develop a specification. To do this, a project team was put together, and there was a large international kick-off meeting, which lasted a few days. Everybody had a very good time.

After some development work the users in North America were contacted to help with the testing. An enterprising manager there suggested that the project should be executed near to the users to improve communication with them. He said he was available to take over the management of the development work, and would be happy with the development manager’s salary. It’s possible this is why he suggested transferring the project to his location.

Instead of transferring the project team from Europe to North America it was disbanded. Except for the European-based project manager the work was passed completely to a new implementation team in North America. The new team grew to over 50 people and worked hard for about two years. They found it difficult to make good progress, because of the poorly defined decision making processes.

There was a senior North American manager, but he was not invited onto the project steering committee, because his line staff were not directly involved. His organization did however, provide office space for the project team. After every project review meeting he asked what was happening.

Sometimes he didn’t agree with the decisions, so he contacted his longtime senior colleague in Europe to get support for changes. This colleague then sent out new instructions, which often reached the team weeks after the original decision. This meant that some work done in the meantime was wasted. Because the development manager had such a big team he earned a really good salary.

During this time the company headquarters in Europe bought a competitor, and their managers became new project stakeholders. This was because they were expected to use the output of the project. Even so they were not convinced, and they said they wouldn’t use it. This made the company rethink the project and send in the auditors. They found out that the value of the deliverable minus the cost of development was nearly zero. The project was then terminated, and the project manager was fired, although he was paid his salary for some months without having to come to work. The total cost of the project was about $100 million Euro.

To keep in touch with Scatterwork and Virtual Working, sign up for our newsletter.

Please help us to rank our list of virtual training features: Can Virtual Training replace traditional events? (5 minute survey).

Share this page:

Breakout groups by language

Share this page:

Hello, this is Deasún Ó Conchúir from Scatterwork. I’m here to bring you another short video about one of the benefits of virtual training. We’re talking here about replicating the traditional classroom environment with the benefit of the internet.

One of the benefits is that participants can be put into groups for discussion, or for working on activities, or developing ideas according to language. Normally in a traditional live environment, the training is carried out in one language. With the internet interface, we can group people. For example, difference offices of the same company that are sharing the same training. Though this is really good because when people are discussing, they much prefer to speak their first language and although they may well be able to interact and understand and so forth, if a presentation in, for example, in English, it does improve the discussion if people are also able to work in their own language.

So that’s a very unique advantage of the virtual training environment. Now we’ve put together a list of these benefits in a survey and we invite you to help us write these benefits by going onto the link associated with this video and giving us the benefit of your thoughts. Also, if you’ve had any specific questions that you’d like answered before going ahead with virtual training from Scatterwork, then please make sure that we’re aware of what your queries are. Thanks very much. We look forward to hearing from you.

In the modern world, the optimal solution may not be traditional face-to-face training that everybody likes and finds very effective, but virtual training. Please help us to rank our list of virtual training features: Can Virtual Training replace traditional events? (5 minute survey)

Also, if you have any queries, then please select a time to call or send a message.

Share this page:

Shorter training sessions are viable

Share this page:

Hello, this is Deasún Ó Conchúir from Scatterwork, continuing our series of videos about the benefits of virtual training compared to face to face training. We’re not talking about webinars, but more about duplicating the normal training environment with the help of the internet.

This has lots of advantages. One of them is that it’s easier to schedule the participants. This indeed could be a reason why training can go ahead that might otherwise be impossible. It’s fairly obvious: people need only to schedule the time of the actual training, whereas any other type of physical meeting requires time to get to and from the meeting place. Even when people are in one building, that takes some time. If they’re scattered out across the world, then that’s a serious overhead.

That’s one of the benefits. We invite you to help us rank these benefits by clicking on the link of the survey associated with this video. If you have any queries before proceeding with a trial of this type of training, then please do contact us. Thanks very much.

In the modern world, the optimal solution may not be traditional face-to-face training that everybody likes and finds very effective, but virtual training. Please help us to rank our list of virtual training features: Can Virtual Training replace traditional events? (5 minute survey)

Also, if you have any queries, then please select a time to call or send a message.

Share this page:
view');