Responding to Human Biases in Project Control

17 Pages Posted: 10 Sep 2014

See all articles by Werner Rutten

Werner Rutten

Open University of the Netherlands

Harry Martin

Open University of the Netherlands

Guy Janssens

Open University of the Netherlands

Date Written: August 25, 2014

Abstract

Many tools and techniques exist to aid project managers in setting up a plausible project management plan. In the execution phase, however, project control mostly is reduced to monitoring time and cost parameters. This paper aims at creating awareness of the substantial influence of human biases on decision making during projects and also proposes the development of a bias evaluation system by which organizations might reduce negative influence of decision making biases in their future projects. Drawing on the literature on cognitive biases, this paper shows that human biases occur in the subconscious mind (system 1) and therefore decision makers are unaware of biases being in effect. System 1 is very fast and relies mostly on experience and intuition. Explicit reasoning (system 2) is much less susceptible to biases since reasoning is rather explicit and is guided by a sense of logic and methodology, but it is rather slow. Unfortunately, most problems in project control require swift response, hence provoke ideal conditions for activation of system 1 decision making, even if system 2 would be more appropriate. For support of system 2, this paper introduces a project management control cycle (PMCC) that systematically addresses nine relevant elements of a project. However, since humans do not always behave rationally, even the use of this comprehensive PMCC might not guarantee project success. Nevertheless, identifying and preventing dysfunctional human behavior can be considered a prerequisite for successful project management control. Explicit use of the PMCC will promote system 2 thinking during the project, but most biases, by nature, will go unnoticed during the process. Therefore this paper proposes to conduct research into the development of bias detection methods and based on that, research into the existence of human biases on decision making during projects. The research results might enhance the project management capabilities of organizations.

Keywords: Project Management Control Cycle, PMCC, Human bias, Cognitive bias, Stakeholders, Risk identification, Project execution

Suggested Citation

Rutten, Werner and Martin, Harry and Janssens, Guy, Responding to Human Biases in Project Control (August 25, 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2486560 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2486560

Werner Rutten (Contact Author)

Open University of the Netherlands ( email )

P.O. Box 2960
Heerlen 6401DL
Netherlands

Harry Martin

Open University of the Netherlands ( email )

P.O. Box 2960
Heerlen 6401DL
Netherlands

Guy Janssens

Open University of the Netherlands ( email )

P.O. Box 2960
Heerlen 6401DL
Netherlands

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