Project Management

Developing a Quantum Mindset

Doug is the author of the landmark book, Extreme Project Management®: Using Leadership, Principles and Tools to Deliver Value in the Face of Volatility. He works with clients who undertake projects in very demanding environments: those settings that feature high speed, high change, high unpredictability and high stress. Doug has lived in the trenches—from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to Beijing, China—with over 275 project teams with budgets that ranged from $25,000 to over $25 million. He is one of the founders of the Agile Leadership Network, an organization dedicated to connecting, developing and supporting great project leaders. He is known for his hard-hitting and humorous keynote speeches that address vital issues facing today’s project-based organizations. You can visit Doug at

Our brains come with a software package that enables us to think and act in a certain way. Just like a computer program, we have built in default settings. I refer to these as our mindset.

Our mindset is a collection of beliefs and assumptions as to how the world works. These beliefs and assumptions drive how we go through our daily lives. For instance, if through social conditioning and personal experience, I develop a belief that people really don’t like or want to work, I might very well become a Theory X manager, a term coined by Douglas McGregor( 1). As a result of this belief, my management style might be one of closely supervising people and introducing policies and procedures to keep them in line and on track. The Theory Y manager is just the opposite. She believes that people, by nature, are self-motivated to want to do a good job and can be trusted to do so, according to McGregor. As a result of his mindset, the Theory X manager adopts a predominant management style of being a task master, where his Theory Y counterpart becomes a relationship manager.

As we’ll see, not all mindsets are appropriate to all projects. What I refer to as the quantum mindset, one that assumes change to be the norm, is better suited for extreme projects. Conversely, the Newtonian mindset, based on a worldview that stability is the norm, is better suited for traditional projects.

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