Published here June 2003.

Introduction | Why are First Principles/Theories Needed? 
First Principles vs. Theories | What Subjects Should Theory Cover? 
Interpretation and Reflections | Metaphysical Issues | Overall Conclusions

First Principles vs. Theories

We prefer theories to first principles, understanding that theories contain principles, both first and secondary, but also concepts. Before we can formulate any fundamental principle, we must have or must select concepts, which we can use in its formulation. The "big idea" or conceptualization comes first, principles second. For example, if we view projects as transformation, we can next subscribe to the first principle of that conceptualization, namely the decomposition of the total transformation into sub-transformations and finally into assignable transformations, tasks. To us, this first principle is described in Wideman's Introduction.

To us, the first principles identified in Wideman's paper are rather critical success factors, taking into account that (1) in the Discussion section, on Issue #2 it is stated: "The key criterion is thought to be whether or not the principle is universally fundamental to project success as defined." and (2) there is no prior conceptualization for formulating such principles. One of the two most important functions of a theory is explanation (the other is prediction), and unfortunately critical success factors do generally not provide such an explanation.

Another problem is that it should not be necessary to start from scratch. Project management is a special type of operations management although others see it rather as a special type of organization theory or of management. If this is the case, then we can use theories developed in the framework of operations/production management, or other fields, provided that they fit the situation in projects. In our paper, we endeavored to show that the underlying theories of project management can easily be found from the theory arsenal of related fields.

Why are First Principles/Theories Needed?  Why are First Principles/Theories Needed?

Home | Issacons | PM Glossary | Papers & Books | Max's Musings
Guest Articles | Contact Info | Search My Site | Site Map | Top of Page