Psychological Decision Theory

The personality types represented by the above Myers-Briggs test, as well as the action-people-process-idea notion, indicate that we have different tendencies in the way that we look at the world and the problems with which we are faced. These usually result in different approaches to our jobs, and in the case of this text, different ways of dealing with the many issues that arise in managing a project. However, various researchers have studied human behavior patterns and have found that there are certain tendencies that are more-or-less common to large numbers of us. These can be thought of as fitting within the general category of psychological decision theory, championed by D. Kahneman, P. Slovic, and A. Tversky [5.6], among others. These behavior patterns are relevant to our subject because they may affect how we might behave as project managers or as members of a project team. Three aspects of the results provided by these researchers are:

• Regression to the mean

• Representativeness and availability

• Loss avoidance

Regression to the mean refers to a general tendency to let down after a stellar performance and to improve after a poor performance. Its application to the world of project management might suggest that after a high-performing core team of software engineers has been working overtime for months in order to complete a software system, it is likely that for the next assignment they might well ''regress to the mean.'' So what might be done about this? Depending upon the situation, one might consider (a) giving the team some time to decompress, and/or (b) starting the next difficult assignment off with a different core team, if possible.

Representativeness and availability both refer to setting up a mental model that is based upon prior experience rather than current facts and likelihoods. Its relevance to project management has to do with what people might do when trying to solve a particularly knotty problem. A thought pattern, for example, might be expressed as: ''When we saw a problem like this before, we cut back the staff and that solved the problem.'' The person with this particular thought and suggested solution might be viewed by other members of the team as (a) not seeing how the current problem differs from the previous problem, (b) stubborn in not being receptive to other solutions, and (c) headed down the road of doing some serious damage to the project by removing some people from the team. We all learn valuable lessons from prior experience, but we must also be open to new solutions that are based upon the data and information of the situation we are in today.

Loss avoidance is the possible tendency for people to avoid virtually sure losses in favor of cases where expected value losses may be much greater. This might well account for why people are reluctant to sell stock holdings at a loss, hoping (against hope) that all will be better in the future. In terms of project management, it may be relatable to not being willing to take a poor performer off the job, or moving on to a different product or customer even though you are not being successful with the ones at hand. Losses are hard to accept in many situations, but the project triumvirate needs to be able, at certain times, to take a loss and then move on. Perhaps you can think of project management situations you have been involved with in which such an approach would have been the correct one.

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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