Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Social vs Natural Science in Management

Have social scientists have kidnapped management thinking?
Consider the following:
•a considerable number of outdated management theories based on dubious science pervade every facet of a modern organization and are not value managed.
•Social scientists push ‘empiricism’ as their new religion into the training rooms and ‘buzz’ books that greet every business traveler.
•It is true that humans are different from other animals because we can change based on knowledge. But for how long can we change our behaviour because of a book, leadership dictate or inspirational training. Hawthorne, Forer, Observer effects etc, are not properly discussed.
•Proof and results have not been forthcoming and the theories are remolded and re-presented to account for the many anomalies.
•Experiential learning may be fine as a concept but we do experience the world as flat and ourselves as younger, taller and less grey! But thankfully we have satellites and mirrors to put us right.
•And just because 200 students in the professors department say so doesn't make it true. John List (Chicago Economist) is challenging a lot of the economic behaviour study methods ('truths') that have filled many airport bookshelves recently.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Are Humans Intelligently Designed?

I was recently in the Toyota design showroom near Miraikan in Tokyo. On the wall they listed the 7 principles of good design that they had borrowed from an American, Ron L Mace.

I wanted to do a thought experiment where Mr Mace was asked by God (or a representative from the 'intelligent design' community) to review the human body as a designed product to see how it would fare against a modern automobile from Toyota. I imagine Mr Mace making notes on his 7 principles check list as follows:
Equitable use (all sizes and types and Handicapped access etc)
Relatively easy to interact with but somewhat harder to ensure correct interpretation of communicated instructions. There is a wide variation of abilities and traits between genders. A general bias exists against females in strength and size and against males in lifespan and number of friendships. Older models have limitations with mobility and sense perception but generally may be considered equitable in use.
Overall score - not bad - 7/10

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Sistine Chapel Ceiling – A Case Study

I am a big fan of Leonardo da Vinci and was very upset recently to learn about the rivalry between these two great men in their latter years. I suppose that I want to believe in the beauty of gentlemanly rivalry like maybe between Federer and Nadal or Nicklaus and Watson. However Leonardo da Vinci did come to Rome in 1513 and he heavily criticised the chapel ceiling as both a work of art and an understanding of nature.

Here in a much more modest way I critique Michalengo’s role as the project manager for one of the most famous ‘projects’ in the world. Though it still stands as a testament to his brilliance as a painter he had many issues or challenges as a manager – in this case the product remains adored but the process, as far as we can tell, was terribly flawed.

Mistake number 1 - Michelangelo was first and foremost a sculptor and when asked in 1508 by the non-Borgian Pope Julius II to cover the monstrous ceiling he probably should have put his foot down and declined.
Know your own limits
You cannot shoot well when the gun's askew”

Monday, October 05, 2009

The Hitchhikers Guide to the PMBOK®

(A Project in 42 Chapters)
“The Guide is definitive. Reality is frequently inaccurate.”
“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”

‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’ would be 30 years old today and so was born around the same time as the creation of the Project Management Institute in a kitchen in Philadelphia by 6 founding members. One wonders what Douglas Adams or one of his amazing characters would make of the latest version of the PMBOK Guide?

His terrific sense of humour combined with a strong science background allowed him, before his untimely death in 2001, to tackle a wide range of topics from a ‘universal’ perspective. He would have stretched the global reach of the PM standard. Brilliant ideas from Ford Prefect to Marvin the Paranoid Android helped many people, including Richard Dawkins, to make sense of this complex world or just simply get through the day. He wrote in a time before Dilbert, The Simpsons and The Office but his books and quotes are still as readable today as when created. One of the most famous ideas from the original book is the answer given by Deep Thought, the biggest computer in the universe, to the question – ‘What is the answer to life, the universe and everything? If you remember the book well you would know that the answer was ‘42’.