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Adaptive Design and Project Management Software Flexibility

March 24, 2009

Are you left or right brained?  Does it matter when it comes to using
Project Management software?

Well actually it does, and in fact the design of the project management
software isn’t exactly neutral in what it favors, as research in the last
few years is pointing out.

Let me go over one study with you, and then talk about implications.

The study I’m referring to is “The effect of decision style on the use
of a project management tool: an empirical laboratory study
” found at
the database for advances in INformation Systems – Spring 2005 (Vol. 36, No2).

In summary, when studying 52 project managers all using Microsoft Project,
they found that left brain dominant (described as directive and analytical)
project managers, as contrasted with right brain dominant managers:
    1. Complete project plans using MS Project quicker,
    2. Completed project plans more accurately than their counterparts, and
    3. Were more accurately able to use the tool to analyze effects of changes.

One of the implications from the study is that current project management
software tools, such as Microsoft Project, are not as well suited to right brain
dominant managers.  Julian Mendoza in a recent blog, points out that it isn’t
just Microsoft Project, but the greater project management community as
represented by PMBOK, over-emphasize left brain or linear approaches to
planning and problem solving.

So is it the design of project management software that skews it to a left
brain view of the world?  It certainly seems that project management
software is not flexibly designed to adapt across left vs right brain

Flexibility and design seem to hinge on the assumptions underlying what
is defined as the “preferred path to the solution.”  E.g. current project
 software emphasizes connecting events with durations and
cost factors, summing the totals (durations) and defining the end point
based upon those summations. 

Scheduling is king.  Additionally Agile based project management solutions
also focus on the schedule end date, but emphasize deriving that in large
part based upon the burn-down trend, e.g. how fast are we completing tasks
and how many are left?

Actually I think that the design of project management software not only
emphasizes left brain assumptions and strengths, but as it gets applied to a
variety of types of projects often looses value, while increasing the difficulty
of work – because of it’s lack of flexibility.

Bottom Line:
Let me leave you with a couple of things to chew on:

1.  Fox and Spence’s research suggests left brain managers “significantly out
perform” right brain managers using current project management
(MS Project) tools.

2.  I’m suggesting that most project management software is designed with
a lack of flexibility and does not readily adapt to left vs right brain dominant
managers, and in fact is best suited to left brain operations.

3. As business works at being more efficient, project management software is
being more broadly applied and inevitably handed to more individuals who
are not left brained, and for whom the emphasis upon planning and scheduling
does not fit the scope of work.  E.g. project management software is getting
applied to a wide range of ad-hoc tasks and challenges, not just large scale
construction and manufacturing problems.

4. I think left vs right brained individuals organize information and ask
very different questions in the pursuit of managing projects.  By-the-way,
there are several tests out there to help you determine which side of the
brain you use the most, but my favorite way is to look at your garage. 

If your garage is neatly ordered, everything in it’s place, more or less –
you’re likely to be left brained.  If it’s a place where you stash things, and
you know where to find stuff based upon your memory of where you last
left it, you’re more likely right.  Or hopefully you use both sides, but we
all have a preference.  Garages don’t lie.:0


Flexible Project Management Software – the Design Factor (1 of 2)

Flexible Project Management Software – the Design Factor (2 of 2)

Flexible Project Management Software – That Wraps Around Your Preferred Style

3 Comments. Leave new

Taisha Dorvee
May 17, 2012 10:13 am

Great information 🙂

April 30, 2013 8:23 pm

Very energetic blog, I loved that a lot. Will there be a
part 2?

Rodney Brim
May 3, 2013 10:12 am

Kristine, thanks for the comments and there should be a part 2, shouldn’t there? I’ll use your prompt to move beyond ideas presented in the Adaptive Design and Project Management blog. Let’s see if I can put something up in the next couple of weeks.


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