Provide Cognitive Feedback — Avoiding the Experience Trap

NOTE: 7th post of a series on an HBR article by Prof. Kishore Sengupta, et al on The Experience Trap

This starts the transition to answers about how to avoid the distorting effects of past experience on PMs that manage complex projects.  The first suggestion is to add reporting that focuses on insights on performance drivers.

Project environments are rich in information, particularly feedback on outcome, which is delivered through status reports. But in environments where cause-and-effect relationships are ambiguous… managers need insights into the relationships among important variables in the project environment, particularly as the project evolves.

The example in the article shows the relationship between the level of quality assurance and the rate at which defects are caught in the first 80 days of a project.  

[The project started] with a relatively low level of quality assurance and has increased it over time. The rate at which defects are caught increases correspondingly, but with a lag, and disproportionately because more effort is now devoted to detection. The rate then decreases, signaling that most of the defects are being detected, and the manager can now maintain quality assurance at this level or even reduce it.

Such approaches have demonstrated results — the article cites >50% reduction in defects in large projects.  It highlights the value proposition for a proper PMIS and associated analytics, which too often only gets honored in the breach.

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