Project Management

Bias busters: Defending against cognitive assumptions to threaten project success

Ashley Bishel, and PM Network

Could the biggest risks threatening a project’s success lie not in the external environment but between the ears of every person involved in a project? It’s possible. From the sponsor to the project or program manager to individual team members, everyone is susceptible to certain cognitive biases that can subtly influence how they approach and plan for initiatives and how objective they are when assessing risks.

These cognitive biases are perhaps most dangerous at the project’s start, which sets the tone and trajectory, says Francesco Luna, PMP, project director Asia Pacific, Merlin Entertainments, Singapore. "In my experience, not managing the biases correctly can influence the project without the project manager even understanding how and why it happened," he says. But beating early biases is also particularly challenging, as it’s a time when excitement and confidence can both run high, and there’s a natural inclination to jump in and get started.

The best way to defend against such biases is to know how to spot them—and defeat them—from the start.


What It Is: When project professionals subconsciously prioritize lessons learned in which the project went well or are quick to discount failed initiatives as having markedly different constraints.

"For example, let&…

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