David A. Schmaltz

Projects As Reflexive Systems

finishingcathedral
The George Washington University

University Seminar on Reflexive Systems
Tuesday, January 18, 2011 from 10:00 am-12:00 pm
Funger Hall, Room 620
2201 G Street NW

PROJECTS AS REFLEXIVE SYSTEMS
David A. Schmaltz

What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

In our society and culture, we seem to start projects when we don’t know what else to do. Fewer than half of these ever finish. Of those that do finish, only a small percentage manage to satisfy anyone. Just last month, the OMB recommended that another raft of government-sponsored information technology projects be cancelled after expending tens of millions of dollars while producing nothing of discernible value. In private industry, no one reports just how sorry their project performance is. The truth would certainly panic the investing public.

The last fifty years has seen the greatest expansion in project management techniques in the history of the world, yet project performance is no better, and might well be worse. How could this be? This situation might reflect nothing but human nature; to pose a metaphor, then get trapped within it; to improve by insisting upon even more of the same perspectives that created the difficulty in the first place; to begin even more hopefully again, as if intention or will determined success. This seems to be what we’ve done when we didn’t know what to do. I believe we could we do better.

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