Unlearning PM: The Control Dilemma

David Schmaltz is a project manager in Takoma Park, Maryland.

Widely used project control methods often require more maintenance than the systems (and the people) they are intended to control. The pursuit of control becomes more burden than value facilitator. But on real-world projects, independent agents act in ways no closed-loop or anticipatory control mechanism could predict — and often for the better.

In part one of this series, I presented findings outlined in The Underlying Theory of Project Management Is Obsolete, a PMI-published paper by Lauri Koskela and Gregory Howell. The authors identified key theories underlying the PMBOK that inhibit project performance: The Transformational View; Management By Planning and Thermostatic Control. The paper claimed that these three tacit theories in action create “self-inflicted problems” and I proposed that they require unlearning. In part part two, I considered some of the inherent limitations of The Transformational View: that while useful for analysis, this perspective trivializes situated work and is difficult to see beyond. In part three, Don’t Task, Don’t Tell,” I evaluated Management By Planning, citing situations where management succeeded by other means.
In this article, I examine the limitations of using Thermostatic Control to resolve the control dilemma.
The Thermostat Wars: Turn Down The Heat!

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