Project Management

Getting Out of the Way of Your Own Biases

Mark Mullaly is president of Interthink Consulting Incorporated, an organizational development and change firm specializing in the creation of effective organizational project management solutions. Since 1990, it has worked with companies throughout North America to develop, enhance and implement effective project management tools, processes, structures and capabilities. Mark was most recently co-lead investigator of the Value of Project Management research project sponsored by PMI. You can read more of his writing at

We're all just a little bit biased.

You can take that in whatever direction you choose. Research has repeatedly shown that we make judgements about people in fractions of a second (usually a tenth of a second or thereabouts). The centers of our brain that are responsible for making decisions about whether someone is trustworthy operate faster than the centers that allow us to identify whether we recognize them. Snap judgements are quick to form, and incredibly difficult to overcome.

That's not something many of us like to hear. We like to believe that we are rational. More important, we like to believe that others are rational, particularly in making decisions that affect us. The idea that hiring decisions about us are made before we have even sat down, that friends decided that we were likeable, or that romantic partners made decisions about our worth as a partner on snap judgements isn't an incredibly comfortable feeling. That doesn't change the fact that it is true.

Moreover, there is a preference and a belief that business decisions, when they are made, are made rationally. There is due consideration for facts and reason. An analysis is performed, trade-offs are analyzed, and costs and benefits are considered. It is a popular belief, particularly amongst project managers, that business cases are rational tools of decision making where options are …

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"The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer."

- Henry Kissinger