Project Heuristics in Dealing with Complexity


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Many projects operate in a multidimensional and often unpredictable environment where leadership, problem-solving and decision-making skills are vital competencies for project managers as the turbulent environment of business increases in complexity. 

Project decision making in particular is complex and fraught with error for a number of reasons:

  • Most problems in project management involve multiple objectives

  • Project managers deal with uncertainties and predicting the future is not an easy task

  • Project management problems can be complex and the number of alternatives faced in managing a project can be significant

  • Most projects include multiple stakeholders, each with different objectives and preferences

Decisions often have to be made in the absence of available data. Even if more data were available the fact is that our information processing capacity is finite and project managers are often under time pressures unable to think through problems in any depth which leads them to reply on heuristics for solving problems.

Heuristics are experience-based mental shortcut techniques for problem-solving. They are not perfect, just simple, and easy to implement. They speed up the process of finding a satisfactory solution via shortcuts. Heuristics are really powerful when users are aware of their imperfections but can become dangerous when their limitations are forgotten.


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