Experience Trap/Complexity Set

This page collects a number of posts touching on the topic of initiative complexity.  It is a burning issue across many industries, so I expect to update it regularly.

The Experience Trap and Managing Complexity

This first group challenges assumptions about the value of experience in project managers, especially when these PMs try to apply this experience to complex projects or programs.  The posts are an extended riff on a Harvard Business Review article The Experience Trap (sorry subscribers only, but worth the reprint).  I had sponsored an INSEAD knowledge management program with one of the authors — Prof. Kishore Sengupta

The main finding — that even experienced and seasoned managers still do not consistently know how to efficiently address problems, if not prevent them altogether — corresponds with our real-world experience in the SAP PM community.  Ironically, the PMO itself also struggled to learn for experience and adjust our approach to this issue.  Below are the posts in chronological order:

What is the Experience Trap?

Avoiding the Experience Trap

  • Performance Implications of the Experience Trap summarizes the effects of these issues and introduces some of the solutions.
  • Providing Cognitive Feedback addresses the issue of using outdated heuristics; using more sophisticated analytics in projects has delivered positive results.
  • Hiring/Staffing Tools and Guidelines help to identify time lags and at least plan for them.
  • Calibrate Estimation Tools suggests that project estimation tools need careful adaptation to the specific environment of the performing organization.
  • Set Goals for Behavior highlights the power of goals that don’t simply replicate planning and control targets, but that focus on behaviors that support project deliverables and outcomes.
  • Develop Project Simulators focuses on simulations, which allows project managers to gain experience in a learning environment by immersing them in realistic scenarios where their mistakes aren’t as costly as on-the-job training would be.
  • Finally, the Conclusion post summarizes key points with some of my comments.

General Complexity Posts


10 Responses

  1. Awesome set here. And the HBR article was definitely worth the read.

  2. Hi Craig,
    I’m glad you liked it…this topic really needs to be top-of-mind for folks leading PM organizations. There is an ingrained assumption about on-the-job experience that just isn’t so anymore. Also, the article itself has proven useful when positioning with senior management. Nothing like being able to point to an HBR article

    Thanks and best,

  3. […] Complexity Set — The entry is a bit of a cheat, because it’s a page that collects a number of posts on the challenges of complex initiatives. I was recently interviewed by the Wall Street Journal on complexity; the interview focused on how SAP has leveraged insights from The Experience Trap article featured on the Complexity Set page. While I don’t know if my contribution will end up in the piece itself, the WSJ’s interest signals that this topic is an emerging challenge for firms of all shapes and sizes. […]

  4. […] Experience Trap/Complexity Set […]

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