Quantum thinking meets the project manager

Traditional project management processes closely parallel Newtonian physics. Actions beget reactions thus making accurate forecasts possible. But Doug DeCarlo started to find that increased rules and templates made the situation worse, not better. So it was time for a new mindset, a quantum mindset if you will.

At the recent ProjectWorld conference in Toronto, DeCarlo, principal at the Wilton, Conn.-based Doug DeCarlo Group, spoke about the need for a new set of project management tactics to address the high-speed, high-change environment of some of today’s projects. He calls them extreme projects.

“An extreme project is a complex, self-correcting venture in search of a desirable result – not necessarily a planned result,” he explained.

This is a key realization. A project can still be successful even if the end result was not exactly as planned.

He also explained that a complex project is a step beyond the traditional complicated project. His analogy was that changing a tire on a moving car is complicated. Changing the same tire if the driver has been drinking is complex, since accurately forecasting the direction of the car is dramatically more difficult.

He then drew a parallel between the traditional Newtonian project and the Quantum project of today. The former are stable by nature, allow for accurate forecasting and tend to stay the course. Quantum projects exist in an environment where change is the norm, uncertainty rules and members actually look for reasons to change things.

He took a slight stab at the process and regiment-driven world of project management. Many project managers proudly place PMP after their name. It stands for project management professional.

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