Initial Goal Bias — The Experience Trap

NOTE: 5th post of a series on an HBR article by Prof. Kishore Sengupta, et al on The Experience Trap.

Here is another interesting finding from the INSEAD team: project managers get fixated on the original goals of a project and do not adjust even as circumstances change.   This topic is a bit sensitive for a lot of PMs to raise and they have a point.  If circumstances change sufficiently to force changes in scope, cost, schedule, and quality targets, don’t we have to re-charter the project?  Per the article, these are hard, even career-limiting, conversations:

Very early in their careers, people incorporate into their mental models the notion that it’s important to meet externally set targets. This bias is often reinforced in managerial life. Revising targets is seen as an admission of failure in many companies, and managers quickly realize that their careers will fare better if they stick to and achieve initial goals—even if that leads to a worse overall outcome. With the bias so firmly embedded in the mental model, it’s hardly surprising that it affected decision making….

In my experience, too many PMs assume the charter is fixed and do not have the charter itself under change control.  They get thenselves — and the project — in trouble by not asking that hard question: do we need to change the rationale for the project itself?

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2 Responses

  1. […] requirements of whole swaths of the PMBOK Guide.  How can a project manager participate in charter, scope, and change control discussions without knowing the business?  Otherwise, aren’t they […]

  2. I think this is more true in Eastern cultures because they promote community acceptance as priority over individuality.

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