An ancient tool in project management

Silena Fox, P. Eng., Senior Project Manager, PMSO—Bell Canada

In recent years, the subject of intuition has emerged from obscurity. Intuition is increasingly recognized as a natural mental faculty, a key element in the creative process, a means of discovery, problem solving, and decision-making. Once considered the province of a gifted few, it is now recognized as an innate capacity available to everyone—not a rare, accidental talent, but a natural skill anyone can cultivate. A key ingredient in what we call genius, it is also an important tool when applied to everyday life.

The intuition is not an emotion or psychic thing; it is not imagination; in some sense it is developing a higher contact with Reality than that, which reason gives us. You can see from our history over the last 2,000 years, that reason has become very dominant and has created this fantastic civilization. All the scientific advances we are enjoying are the result of applying logic and reason to the study of nature, and so forth, creating a tremendous technical advance. But now, what is the new advance? We have to go from reason to intuition, and in that role, the role of women, some might think, is very critical. Women are not more intuitive than men are. Perhaps because intuition was thought not to be a rational process it was attributed to women, whereas rational thought was assumed to be province of male brain. In fact, tasks or jobs traditionally assumed to be “women's work” required very little in the way of intuition. Men and women are equally intuitive and equipped to use this powerful toll in their everyday lives.

How attuned are you to the subtle messages around you, like those hidden behind our spoken communications or those carried by synchronicities and omens? There is guidance available to us at all times, just below the surface of our logic, just after we stop pushing and striving, just before we jump to conclusions. By cultivating the ability to pause and be comfortable with silence, and then by focusing steadily and listening for the first sounds or feeling for the first impressions, you can help your intuition wake up suddenly and enthusiastically, as if from a long winter's nap.

As you will discover shortly, the less you know about a subject or topic, the more effectively your intuition comes into play. Working all my life as a Project Manager in Outside Plant Engineering had very little knowledge about computer systems. Five years ago got a job as a Project Manager with the IS/IT group and was assigned to a project that transfer a system from one platform to another. I did not have the emotional nor intellectual ability to perform this job, but my intuitive abilities flourished by way of compensation. I relied more and more on my intuition as a survival response, and it has served me well. What is fascinating is that I rely on my intuition to tell me when my logic is incorrect.

Although intuition is a natural resource, it functions best when developed and exercised. Like a muscle, intuition becomes strong, reliable, and precise when trained and put to use. But because our culture stresses the importance of “analytic thinking,” we often forget we have this inner source of wisdom and insight. We are like the hapless hero of the old V-8 Juice ad who mindlessly guzzled a soft drink, then slapped his forehead and said, “Gee, I could've had a V-8!” How many times have you heard someone ruefully say, “I knew that was going to happen”? They were really saying, “Gee, I could have listened to my intuition!”

Intuition can be used in your daily professional as well as personal life. Intuition can help you recover lost information about the past, verify unknown information about the present, or predict information about the future. Intuition can empower you to be productive and proactive in any situation. As the world becomes increasingly specialized, it's more and more difficult to remain an informed participant. We hand over decisions to experts and specialists who “know better,” like the doctors and lawyers. Most of all, intuition will improve your decision-making.

The objective of this paper is to discuss the Roles of the Project Manager, to demonstrate that men and women are born “Natural Project Managers” and how natural instincts, can be used more effectively. Most project managers are trained in the technology of their projects, but lack an understanding of the managerial functions necessary to do their jobs well. Women with their natural intuitions and motherhood instincts lead the team through a project with fewer headaches. Women created their own personal “bag of tricks” to tap their intuitive wisdom in any situation.

Each project manager, regardless of the gender, must fill several roles and responsibilities in the completion of a project. The most important roles that a project manager must master will be discussed here.

Pure Instincts plumbs the greater depths of a human's abilities, the source that gives him the power to create. Once he learned how to manage instincts in relation to thoughts, feelings, and commitments, he maximizes his own and other's efforts.

The Roles of the Project Manager


This role is important because the project manager is the only person that is able to view both the project and the way it fits the overall plan for the organization. It is also important that project manager must coordinate all of the efforts of his project team into a working unit. He must also explain and integrate the project with members outside the project team that may or may not be within the organization.

As an integrator, the Project Manager relies on his intuitions, whether he is aware or not. It is the same thing when a new student is showing up in class one day. The teacher has to ensure that a smooth integration takes place. Since the teacher is not aware of the new student's personality he relies on his own intuitions.


The project manager must be a communicator to upper management, to the project team, and to members outside the project who have an interest in the project's results. This is an important role because, with all of the information coming to the project manager who fails decipher and pass on the appropriate information on time can himself become the major bottleneck in the project. The communication process is not always easy because the project manager may find barriers to communication exist, such as a lack of clear communication channels and problems with technical language that must be used.

This is the time that the project manager should rely on his intuition. Sometimes the intuitions are so strong that the answers are surfacing and the problems became clearer and clearer. The project manager has the responsibilities of sending messages to the right people and translating them into a language that they all can understand it.

Team Leader

In terms of leadership ability, this not only applies to the formal or legitimate authority of position a project manager might use in the organization, but also to expert and referent type of power that would be used in the informal organization. The project manager must be able to solve problems as they arise, guide people from different functional areas, and coordinate the project to show his leadership capabilities. In other words, a leader's actions are directly tied to identifying team members’ instinctive capabilities and finding ways of putting them to productive use.

When leaders use their own instincts to gain the commitment of other people's instincts, goals become more attainable. When you contribute your form of instinctive energy to a group, you become a high producer, perhaps a star performer. When you manage other people's instinctive drivers, you are a leader. They accept responsibility for selecting teams with the right mix of instincts, skills and experience, and for guiding conflicting natural energies.

Leaders act as a catalyst for freely given cognitive commitments and give direction to the variety of problem-solving methods that a cognitively synergistic group will suggest. And they manage to do this without inhibiting anyone's participation. They bring out the best in people, drawing forth and focusing instinctive energy toward cooperative effort.


The specific decision may vary according to the type of project and the stage of the project's life cycle at which the decision must be made, but in any event the project manager must make them. Key decisions include allocation of resources, the cost of performance and schedule tradeoffs, and changing the scope, direction, or characteristics of the project. The decision-making process is certainly not a unique role to the project managers, but it is a very important one that could have important consequences on the project as a whole.

It is recognized that Intuition is a very powerful tool in the decision-making process. Our daily decisions are based on intuitions. We strongly believe that it is our knowledge that plays an important part in our decision-making, but unconsciously, we are driven by our instincts.

Climate Creator or Builder

It is important that the project manager attempts to build a supportive atmosphere so that the project teams members can work together and not against each other. The project manager should seek to create a supportive climate to begin with so that some negative forms of conflict and unrest can be avoided.

The Art of Asking Questions

You have the ability to get useful information instantly on any topic and perform your roles as a Project Manager, at any time whether intellectually you know anything about it or not. As you will discover shortly, you are already intuitive. You access your “sixth sense” unconsciously all the time. You simply are not aware of your intuition, or have not learned to recognize it. By asking the right questions you can get the right answers. Be careful what questions you ask of your intuition, because you will surely answer them.

One of the frustrating things about working with computers is that they do only what you tell them to do. If a computer malfunctions, it is because your instructions were not correct. In a sense, your intuition is like that. It answers precisely the question before it. If you want to get the right answer, you would better be sure you have asked the right question.

Should I become a Project Manager? This is an ambiguous question in one way or another, because it involves choices. In this question, for example, you could love being a Project Manager without being particularly successful. If you want success as a criterion, you must incorporate it into the question: “Will I be successful, as an Project Manager?” Even then, what do you mean by success? How is it measured? Perhaps a better question would be the following: “What issues do I need to evaluate in deciding whether or not to become a Project Manager?” As you can see, formulating your question is not simply a matter of grammatical or semantic or philosophical correctness. In preparing and phrasing a question just so, you invest a great deal of feeling and emotion as well as logic. A good question can generate useful information; therefore it should satisfy the following requirements:

1. Each question must be specific and unambiguous so that a precise answer is possible. “Will it rain tomorrow in Montreal?”

2. Each question should be simple rather than compound. “Will I get a good vendor on this project and have a good quotation?” The intuition is confused by this compound question since the first half is false while the second half is true.

3. Each question should be directly relevant to the issue you want to know about. “Is Bell Canada a good company?” What you actually want to know is whether Bell Canada's stock is a good investment.

You Already Know Everything

In your role as a Project Manager, the most important thing, when dealing with human beings is communicating, by asking the right questions in order to get to the right answer and be able to help. Intuition is a capacity you are born with as a human being, like the capacity for language or thinking or appreciating music. Intuition is not a power one acquires. It is an integral part of every human mental, emotional, and psychical process. When dealing with team members, intuitions can help you deal with a lot of issues.

You are constantly receiving information intuitively; you are simply unaware of the process. You use your intuition in all those practical reasoned decisions you make every day, from choices as mundane as what to eat for dinner to what to major in or who to hire as a team member for your project.

Using your intuition more effectively means to bring the unconscious data to a place where your conscious mind can interpret it. It takes hard work and practice to put this unconscious process under control. I have yet to meet a person who is not intuitive. Some people are more than the others and some individuals are naturally more gifted in intuitive reasoning while others are more gifted as logicians, painters, or writers.

Intuition is an innate ability that you use all the time but it may have been a hit-or-miss proposition. The skill comes in knowing how to access and apply it effectively. Learning to understand the information you receive intuitively requires structure, just as thinking is improved with the structure that logic provides. Whatever native intuitive skills, you have retained from your childhood; you can develop them, like any other skill, with guidance and practice. You will learn how to tap this unlimited information-gathering faculty at will.

Moreover, intuition is a more powerful tool if it is not lost among all the other components of your decision-making. The same is true of the emotions and the intellect. If we know what we are reacting to and why, we can make clearer rational decisions. It is amazing that intuition and irrationality are an amalgam of diverse, and often conflicting, facts, feelings, thoughts, and memories.

Finally, becoming aware of your intuitive “hits” in a conscious way allows you to let intuition data supplement the other data you use to make decisions. Training intuition also trains the pure use of logic and emotion because training intuition, through exercise, helps you identify each process as separate, thereby enabling you to use the different capacities together more effectively.

We are all open to receiving intuitive information during childhood. Because we live in a society that teaches us to distrust anything but visible, tangible, “scientific” logic, however, this ability is trained out of us as we “grow up.” This ability was never trained out of some of us.

As children we treat all our perceptions as real, because our intuition is raw and untrained, we use it unconsciously to pick up only data that confirm our fears or wishes. Adults of course are more “realistic.” Once we reach adulthood, most of us just know we are afraid without the details to describe the fear and give us a handle on the remedy. Because we have lost touch with our ability to fantasize and pretend, we have ironically cut ourselves off from our unconscious ability to provide us with meaning when, with intellectual maturity, it is potentially most useful to us. All intuition training must begin with noticing which of your perceptions you imagine and which ones you ignore.

Learn to Recognize Your Intuition

Another reasons that we don't recognize intuition is that is speaking a different language. Intuition is often symbolic and fragmentary. Only on rare occasions does it speak in complete sentences. What is more, intuitive information often “does not make sense,” especially when it involves the future. As a result, we train ourselves to dismiss it. How many times you have that feeling about stopping a project mid way, but nobody wants to listen to you, because you do not have all the facts. The project continues and the cost is increasing, the due dates were missed and the team is discouraged.

Whether you realize it or not, your intuition plays a role in every decision you make. People not trained in the use of their intuition are usually most intuitive about the things in which they are engaged daily: their careers or areas of expertise. Doctors instinctively use their intuition in making diagnoses, just as business people use theirs in assessing the merits of an investment and you too are using it daily in with your team members.

People also tend to be intuitive in the areas of their emotional preoccupations. A person fearful about losing his job, if the project is a “NO GO,” is going to have intuitive antennae fully extended to pick up any sign of danger. If things are not going well in a project, you will be more attended with the information around you.

Becoming a Mirror—Exercise

Since you eventual goal is to gather and note intuitive information, you need to report your sensations as you experience them. This means you have to develop the ability to speak or write continuously at the same time you are receiving impressions.

Use a tape recorder or write down anything you are sensing in the moment. If you hear a car beeping outside, say so. If your nose itches, say so. The trick is to report everything you notice out loud. Do not forget about things that you remember feelings or thoughts you might have.

As you do this, you will find yourself tempted to edit sensations that seem trivial or confusing. You will especially try to ignore impressions that “do not make sense.” Resist these temptations. This will force you to report accurately, without the interference and censoring of your conscious mind.

Remember that is very important also to speak as soon as possible after a question is asked. If you slow down or pause, your reasoning mind will kick in and interfere with the stream or intuitive images. Stop after a while and look over your notes and question yourself about the things you wrote or recorded. What do they mean? You will be surprise at some of the things that are on the paper.

There are No Coincidences

Everything you perceive, everything you sense, remember, feel, dream, or intuit, in short, everything you notice has meaning. We all notice completely different things. Why do you notice what you notice while somebody else notices something else? Most people believe the answer to that question is random occurrences. In reality each and every one of us is noticing things for a reason. Everything you notice is significant; in other words, there are no coincidences. The more you thing about it that, the more it boggles the mind. Everything can be interpreted. There is nothing in life that does not have a meaning. When people act the way they act is for a reason.

There are exercises that will help you apply this principle productively in your everyday life. Try to stop for a minute, and look around you and record everything you notice and hear. Examine them later. You will be impressed with your founding.

Our goal is to apply our intuition in order to gain useful information, to perform better and make better decisions. Sometimes we choose to notice certain things and not notice the rest. But everything, everything you notice around you has significance. In other words, there is a reason you notice what you do and don't notice everything else. The trick is to know what question the information is answering.

It is extremely difficult for most people to accept that everything they notice is significant. If you have trouble with this concept, begin by pretending that everything is a sign and look for the meaning.

Remembering How to Pretend

An important step in developing your intuitive awareness is learning to accept your extrasensory impressions. Relying on intuition means operating without the safety net of logic, commonsense, and sensory experience. It is not easy, but you can do it by pretending. If you pretend that everything has meaning, and look for an application of that meaning, you sift through what is meaningful and what is meaningless to identify signs for you.

You have to allow the meaning of your symbols to come to you, and this may take time. It also takes an open mind, even if at first you have to pretend that the symbols are significant. Allow things to be meaningful and they become meaningful.

Pretending is also a valuable ability when learning a new skill. Before we master something, it helps to pretend that we are already acquired the skill.

Trust Yourself

• Giving a reading is not taking a test, so do not worry about whether your impressions are “right” or “wrong.” Most people think of intuition as using it to grasp “the right answer” immediately. Remember that intuition is an information-gathering process with which you gain ammunition to get at some version or approximation of “the truth.”

• Trust your intuition. Don't try to “figure out” the answer. Simply allow yourself to notice the images or symbols and other impressions a question brings out in your intuition.

• The impressions you receive don't have to make sense to you. They might seem to be contradictory. This is normal; especially if you are responding to a question you know little or nothing about it.

• Intuition is a natural sense, so you don't have to try to receive impressions. You could not stop being intuitive this moment any more than you could stop hearing the sounds around you.

• The idea is to make mistakes! If you were not willing to make mistakes, you would not get to the place where you can tap you intuition. As you do this more and more, you will discover that your intuition does not make mistakes. But that is not to say that you would not make mistakes in interpreting intuitive information.

• In short, record everything, even impressions that seem like interference.

• If you still feel you are not getting an intuitive response, make something up! You will be amazed at how accurate your “guesses” can be.

• Remember always to look for possibilities and alternative scenarios in your readings. Life is rarely black and white.

We often hear people advising others to “trust your gut” or “trust your hunches.” But using intuition takes a whole lot more than trust, because sometimes you do not get feedback until months or years later, when the person involved calls you up and says “Hey, you were right.” I remember the time, when I told my boss: “Let's stop the project before it is too late.” I had this intuition of upcoming trouble and money spent unnecessary. Of course, I was overruled. Ten months later, the project was completed. The cost of the project tripled, and the scope was reduced. The client was not satisfied. I just had an intuition; they wanted solid data to back my recommendation.

Intuition is Your Sixth Sense

You use your five primary physical senses—touch, sight, smell, hearing, and taste—to gather information about the world around you. The key difference is that intuition perceives things without reliance on sense. Intuition in nothing more than a process of gaining information that does not rely on your senses, memory, experience, feelings or other thought processes— thought it does rely on these to interpret that information.


A dangerous misconception about intuition is that it should be used to make decisions. The best use of intuition is not to decide whether you should do something, but simply to add information to what you already know and feel. Intuition information should not be considered in isolation, but then neither should emotional or sensory or logical.

Identifying how our intuitive faculty works enables us to use it selectively for effective decision-making. A predominantly linear process may be preferable when clear, empirical information is available. When little data is at hand or the question relates to how current choices might affect future results, an intuitive process may be more efficient.

It is helpful to learn techniques by which intuitive data can be clearly separated from intellectual and emotional data. Even though you may be unaware of the process, every decision you make to some degree uses your intuition, your knowledge, your judgment, and your feelings.

At the risk of oversimplifying complex psychological processes, you evaluate situations based on four sources of information:

1. What you know about them (your knowledge and memories).

2. What you think of them (your judgments and interpretations).

3. How you feel about them (your feelings and emotions).

4. What you intuit about them (your intuition).

If you believe in intuition, you probably gave your subconscious the cues that you were going to allow yourself to function intuitively.


Boden, Margaret A. (1990). The creative mind myths and mechanisms. Basic Books.

Brann, Eva T.H. (1991). The world of the imagination. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc.

De Becker, Gavin. (1997). The gift of fear. Little Brown and Company.

Dinsmore, Paul C. (1993). The AMA handbook of project management.

Kerzner, Harold. (1998). Project management, A systems approach to planning, scheduling and controlling, 6th edition. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Kolbe, Kathy. (993). Pure instinct. New York

Meredith, Jack R., & Martel, Samuel J. (1995). Project management a managerial approach, 3rd Edition, John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Pinker, Steven. (1997). How the mind works. W.W. Norton & Company.

Way, Bruce. (1997). Living intuitively. New York.

Proceedings of the Project Management Institute Annual Seminars & Symposium
September 7–16, 2000 • Houston, Texas, USA



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