Single-loop project controls

reigning paradigms or straitjackets?

This article reports on the results from an ongoing research program to study the role mental models play in project decision making. It examines models of project planning and control, discusses some of their limitations, and proposes tools to address the associated deficiencies. The project management simulator was a system dynamics model of software project management and was developed as part of an empirical case study. Project management belongs to the class of multiloop nonlinear feedback systems, but most managers do not see it that way. Our experiment results suggest that managers adopt simplistic single-loop views of causality, ignore multiple feedback interactions, and are insensitive to nonlinearities. Specifically, the article examines single-loop models of project planning and control, discusses their limitations, and proposes to address them. The results reveal three key insights: (1) tapping into an organization's "mental database" can be an invaluable source of organization-specific knowledge and wisdom; (2) in managing complex systems, mental models are not enough; combining the strengths of the manager with strengths of computer modeling provides reliable and efficient tools to perform the necessary bookkeeping and creates customized solutions to fit the organization.
member content locked

Become a PMI member to gain access

or Join



Related Content

  • PM Network

    Life Hacks member content open

    Project practitioners from all over the world answer the question: How do you apply project management skills in everyday life?

  • Red pill, blue pill member content open

    By Bonghez, Simona Throughout the project life cycle, decisions of varying levels of importance have to be made. The paper focuses on key decision points, such as choosing the project management approach, agreeing on…

  • Sixth sense intuition member content open

    By Roeder, Tres Those who are new to the discipline of project management often rely too heavily on adopting and adapting defined processes and frameworks. As project managers mature and learn how to confront…

  • PM Network

    Pull the plug member content open

    By Wang, Xiaojin | Pacelli, Lonnie The most effective way to limit the negative impact of a failing project is knowing not only when to cancel it but also how to cancel it. This article features two project professionals…

  • Earned value management and risk management member content open

    By Hillson, David To thrive in today's uncertain business environment, organizations must perform high-level, organization-wide decision making. This paper examines how organizations can integrate earned value…