This Guest paper is an update of an earlier paper published on the Internet in June 1999.

It was submitted for publication on this web site and is Copyright to M.A. Seely & Q.P. Duong, 2005.
Published here February 2006.

PART II | The Planning and Control Paradox | The Customer Service Paradox
The Project Leader Paradox | The Partnering Paradox | The Learning Paradox
A Supplementary Explanation

The Learning Paradox
(The fifth of five paradoxes)

... to learn effectively we need to understand what we don't know ...

The theory of the DBM would imply certain levels of understanding within the various horizons. When applying the DBM, if you asked an MBR for an analysis of a Level 4 problem, he or she would have the capacity to recite the various infractions to the corporate rules and regulations. If application of the rules were not apparent, then he or she would probably create some new rules for you to follow as the suggested solution.

If you gave an MBM the same task, he or she would have the capacity to identify where the project strayed from the various tools, templates, and methodologies set as the guiding framework for the project. To correct the problem, he or she would create and provide some new tools for you to follow. If you gave an MBO the task, he or she would point to areas where the objective has been compromised because too much latitude has been given to the seemingly whimsical desires of end users. His or her solution would amount to imposing constraints to maintain the objective.

Understanding that there is always a higher level or "bigger picture" is an important part of project management learning. Level 4 problems require Level 4 solutions. That's not to say that there is no place for fixed objectives, tools, and rules at Level 4, but rather that the corporate values have to be the guiding force. A Level 4 approach would keep the corporate values as the target horizon. The MBV practitioner, rather than remaining intransigent to the original objective, would know the optimal point at which to allow a change, and would let it evolve in a controlled fashion.

When teaching project management, practitioners generally want to learn one level ahead of their current position, the next horizon, as illustrated in Figure A8. Two or more levels ahead would be too confusing and not well received. Because we don't know what we don't know, our tendency is to be complacent with our level of understanding.

Figure A8: Learning in the Next Horizon
Figure A8: Learning in the Next Horizon

Consequently, we run the risk of advancing solutions that do not apply to a given situation. It appears that the way to sensitize people to the need for a higher learning is to give them the responsibility for projects, and hold them accountable for the results. An alternative approach is to map the course from the outset, so that people can identify with a broader context.

The Partnering Paradox  The Partnering Paradox

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