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Advances in Project Management: Seeing change: the power to think in new ways

SERIES ARTICLE 

By Prof Darren Dalcher

Director, National Centre for Project Management

University of Hertfordshire

UK
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Introduction to the January 2014 Advances in PM Series Article 

Professional managers become experts at ‘reading’ situations and identifying suitable responses. Indeed, expertise often implies that the recognition of situations and the identification of corrective action can occur at an almost subconscious level. Experts read situations through deep engagement, which encompasses a particular perspective, or viewpoint, that enables the expert to see in a particular way.

In a landmark book, published over thirty ago, Gareth Morgan asserted that effective managers and leaders benefit from the ability to apply different models of thinking and seeing, that enable them to approach difficult situations from new angles. The availability of alternative readings of a situation can offer a wider and more varied range of potential solutions and larger repertories of action possibilities, thereby enriching the ability to respond, adjust and adapt.

In contrast, less effective managers and problem solvers seem to interpret situations from a fixed point of view. As a result they miss out on the possibility of developing more dynamic interpretations and hit blocks that they cannot get around. Consequently, their actions and behaviours become fixed, rigid and inflexible.

Morgan’s important thesis was that all theories of organisation and management are based on implicit images or metaphors that lead managers and practitioners to see, experience, understand and manage in distinctive, yet partial ways.

Voltaire opined that an idea is an image that paints itself into his brain. Cognitive scientists talk about thinking as the ability to mentally represent aspects of the world, and then to operate on these mental representations rather than on the world itself. Yet, what we see, predict and understand ultimately depends on the images and structure that we use to integrate, interpret and respond to and on the reinforcing systems of beliefs and values that we employ.

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Editor’s note: The PMWJ Advances in Project Management series includes articles by authors of program and project management books published by Gower in the UK.  Each month an introduction to the current article is provided 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.  Prof Dalcher’s article is an introduction to the invited paper this month in the PMWJ by Gower author Philip Weiss.  Information about the Gower series can be found at http://www.gowerpublishing.com/advancesinprojectmanagement. 

About the Author 

flag-ukDarren Dalcher, PhDDarren Dalcher, PhD 

Series Editor 

Director, National Centre for Project Management

University of Hertfordshire

UK

Darren Dalcher, Ph.D. HonFAPM, FRSA, FBCS, CITP, FCMI is Professor of Project Management at the University of Hertfordshire, and founder and Director of the National Centre for Project Management (NCPM) in the UK.  He has been named by the Association for Project Management (APM) as one of the top 10 “movers and shapers” in project management in 2008 and was voted Project Magazine’s “Academic of the Year” for his contribution in “integrating and weaving academic work with practice”. Following industrial and consultancy experience in managing IT projects, Professor Dalcher gained his PhD in Software Engineering from King’s College, University of London.  Professor Dalcher has written over 150 papers and book chapters on project management and software engineering. He is Editor-in-Chief of Software Process Improvement and Practice, an international journal focusing on capability, maturity, growth and improvement. He is the editor of the book series, Advances in Project Management, published by Gower Publishing of a new companion series Fundamentals of Project Management.  Heavily involved in a variety of research projects and subjects, Professor Dalcher has built a reputation as leader and innovator in the areas of practice-based education and reflection in project management. He works with many major industrial and commercial organisations and government bodies in the UK and beyond.  He is an Honorary Fellow of the APM, a Chartered Fellow of the British Computer Society, a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute, and the Royal Society of Arts, and a Member of the Project Management Institute (PMI), the Academy of Management, the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the Association for Computing Machinery. He is a Chartered IT Practitioner. He is a Member of the PMI Advisory Board responsible for the prestigious David I. Cleland project management award and of the APM Professional Development Board.  Prof Dalcher is an academic editorial advisor for the PM World Journal.  He can be contacted at [email protected].