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
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
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
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.