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Choice Engineering in Project Management

 

SECOND EDITION

Lev Virine, Ph.D., P.Eng.; Michael Trumper; Eugenia Virine, PMP

Intaver Institute Inc.

Calgary, Alberta, Canada

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People often make poor choices because of illusions. At the same time, they don’t perform any analysis that would improve their decisions because of other illusions to which they are subject. Is there a solution to this problem? Establishing effective processes is always considered an effective way to improve project management. For example, if a project manager follows mandatory guidelines in time, scope, cost, risk management and other knowledge areas, this should improve the quality of the decisions made during the execution of the project and reduce chance of failure. But such processes are hard to implement, often expensive, and grudgingly followed if at all by some team members once they have been introduced. In many cases, especially for smaller projects, it would be more beneficial to create an environment within which people are encouraged on their own volition to make better choices, rather than mandate these choices. This is called choice engineering.

The Processes vs. Illusions

The number of doctors per capita in Russia is significantly higher than in the US: 4.25 per 1000 people vs. 2.3 per 1000 people based on 2002-2003 data (Nationmaster, 2010). In most cases Russian doctors are as qualified as physicians in Western Europe and North America. At the same time, the quality of health services in Russia is significantly lower than in these countries. There are different reasons to explain the difference: relative lack of equipment and medicine is certainly a major factor. But perhaps more fundamentally is the situation where standard medical processes are either absent or poorly implemented. For example, after cleaning a floor, a nurse may go directly to assist with the delivery of a baby without first washing her hands or a doctor may perform surgery after a night of heavy drinking. The fundamental reason for these problems, as we have already learned, is illusions. The doctor is under the illusion that he can successfully remove an appendix despite his hangover. Because of illusions, the doctor makes a poor decision.

There are processes that could mitigate this and other similar situations. For our example, a campaign could be conducted to educate surgeons that contrary to their own beliefs, drinking a bottle of vodka prior to performing surgery will not improve their performance, and is not only detrimental to their health, but that of their patients. Hospitals could routinely institute sobriety checks, or require the surgery team to take undergo a quick breath analyzer test before surgeries are performed. A process could be put in place to contact replacement surgeons if they are required and so on.

The Project Management Institute’s “A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge “(PMBOK® Guide) (Project Management Institute, 2009) is an accumulation of the experience of hundreds of project managers and defines the most important project management processes. If these processes are followed, it should significantly improve the performance of the organization. The problem is that implementing and maintaining these processes is hard work.

For example, you are managing a project: establishing international counterfeit goods production and distribution organization. Such a project may have many risks, including potential arrest by various law enforcement agencies, inaccurate counterfeit Rolex watches, continuously breaking handles on fake Louis Vuitton bags, and fake Viagra which creates nothing but diarrhea. Because of the risky nature of this project, you would like to set up a risk management process. Here is what you need to do:

More…

To read entire paper (click here)

 

Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English. Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright. This paper was originally published in the March 2012 edition of PM World Today. It is republished here with the authors’ permission.

 

About the Authors

 

pmwj36-Jul2015-Virines-LEV PHOTOLev Virine, PhD

Intaver Institute

Alberta, Canada

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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. Lev can be contacted at [email protected]

 

pmwj36-Jul2015-Virines-MICHAELMichael Trumper

Intaver Institute

Alberta, Canada

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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.

 

pmwj36-Jul2015-Virines-EUGENIAEugenia Virine, PMP

Alberta, Canada

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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.