Advances in Project Management: Memory and Project Mental Errors


By Lev Virine, Michael Trumper & Eugenia Virine

Intaver Institute Inc. 

Alberta, Canada

The book “ProjectThink” by Lev Virine and Michael Trumper (Gower 2013) discusses psychological concepts related to decision-making in project management: memory, emotions, heuristics and biases, mental traps, and happiness. A better understanding of ourselves should translate to a better understanding of others and allow us to improve how we manage projects. This paper is written based on the book ProjectThink.

A lot of the mental mistakes we are prone to in project management are related to memory. Often, we cannot properly assess events because we have forgotten similar events that occurred in our past. In this article we will explore how certain features of our memory can affect project management and how we can improve our memory and hopefully improve our project management as a result.

Memory Errors in Project Management

The West Gate Bridge is a steel box girder cable-stayed bridge in Melbourne, Australia. The total length of the bridge is 2,582.6 metres (8,473.1 ft). The West Gate Bridge carries five lanes of motor vehicle traffic in each direction.

On 15 October 1970 during construction, the 112 m (367.5 foot) 2,000-tonne span plummeted into the Yarra River. Thirty-five construction workers were killed; most of whom were having lunch beneath the bridge. The ensuing investigation concluded that the bridge collapsed because of errors in structural design and construction. On the day of the collapse, construction workers were trying to connect two half-girders, which were not fully vertically aligned. Engineers proposed to load higher half-girders with 10 concrete blocks weighing 8 tons each. This extra weight caused the span to buckle and ultimately led to the collapse (Hitchings, 1979). Eventually the damage was repaired and the bridge currently serves as a vital link between the city center and its suburbs (Figure 1).


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About the Authors

flag-canadapmwj19-feb2014-virine-AUTHOR1 VIRINE LEVLev Virine, PhD

Intaver Institute

Alberta, Canada

Lev D. Virine, Ph.D. has more than 25 years of experience as a structural engineer, software developer, and project manager. He has been involved in major projects performed by Fortune 500 companies and government agencies to establish effective decision analysis and risk management processes as well as to conduct risk analyses of complex projects. Lev’s current research interests include the application of decision analysis and risk management to project management. He writes and speaks around the world on the decision analysis process, the psychology of judgment and decision-making and risk management.

flag-canadapmwj19-feb2014-virine-AUTHOR2 TRUMPERMichael Trumper

Intaver Institute

Alberta, Canada

Michael Trumper has over 20 years’ experience in communications, software design, and project risk and management. Michael is a partner at Intaver Institute Inc., a vendor of project risk management and analysis software. Michael has authored papers on quantitative methods in project estimation and risk analysis. He is a co-author of two books on project risk management and decision analysis. He has developed and delivered project risk analysis and management solutions to clients that include NASA, DOE, and Lockheed Martin.

flag-canadapmwj19-feb2014-virine-AUTHOR3 VIRINE EUGENIAEugenia Virine, PMP

Alberta, Canada 

Eugenia Virine, PMP, is a senior manager for revenue development at Greyhound Canada. Over the past 12 years Eugenia has managed many complex projects in the areas of transportation and information technology. Her current research interests include project risk and decision analysis, project performance management, and project metrics. Eugenia holds B. Comm. degree from University of Calgary.

More information about the authors and Intaver Institute can be found at www.intaver.com.

Editor’s note: The Advances in Project Management series includes articles by authors of program and project management books published by Gower in the UK.  The articles are coordinated by series editor Prof Darren Dalcher, who is also the editor of the Gower Advances in Project Management series of books on new and emerging concepts in PM.   Lev Virine and Michael Trumper are the authors of ProjecThink: Why Good Managers make Poor Project Choices, published by Gower in October 2013.  For more on Gower project management, visit http://www.gowerpublishing.com/default.aspx?page=2063