Wrong decision wrong strategy and planning errors: Experience doesn't help!


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Text comes from: Denkfallen: Klug irren will gelernt sein (2015) by PD Dr. York Hagmayer, published by BusinessVillage Verlag, Reprints by friendly permission of the publisher.
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Surprisingly many projects are not being ready for term. And this does not only concern large projects such as the construction of airports or military transporters. Accurately, planning errors are to be expected in the case of highly complex projects.

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PD Dr. York Hagemayer York-HagmeyerPD Dr. York Hagmayer is Academic Councilor at the University of Göttingen.

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Expected errors

Take, for example, the development of new weapon systems, such as the construction of an aircraft carrier. The development time is 10 years. During this time a lot of technical innovations are developed. These include, among other things, new chip technologies and new operating systems for the computer systems.

Now these innovations are to be included in the ongoing development, so that the finished product is up to date. The planners can but badly foresee what innovations there will be in the next 10 years.

The consequence is that they need to plan so that they could possibly reschedule, if there are relevant innovations, without the development time itself being extended. This is very difficult to impossible, is understandable.

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Incorrect project planning

But how about projects that have already been implemented in a similar form? Such projects have a much shorter planning horizon and possible innovations in the course of the project, eg new software releases, are well-foreseeable.

For such projects, there should be no delays or overtime to meet the deadlines. But far from it. Again, there are far-reaching planning errors. The effort is often significantly underestimated. Where does it come from? Part of the reasons lies with the respective ones Company and the approach to project planning.

Psychological causes

But there are also psychological reasons.

  1. The first reason is to believe that by the experience gained a similar project can be realized significantly faster next time. This assessment is unfortunately wrong. In general, the best estimate is that it will last as long as the last projects.
  2. The second reason is that the planning usually only includes the work to be done to achieve the project goals. The total duration of a project is not only determined by this work. Communication, coordination and the reaction to new customer requests generate considerable effort. And then there are “unpredictable” events that have to be dealt with.

Knowledge and experience leads to better decisions?

Employees with professional experience generally have more decision-making powers with increasing professional experience. That can be a mistake. The reason for the rise of experienced employees is obvious: Knowledge and experience suggest faster and, above all, better decisions. A plausible but often wrong assumption.

Often, experience increases the risk of falling into certain minds that can reduce the quality of decisions. For example, trust in one's own decisions increases with experience.

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Important information is ignored

The subjective certainty of deciding rightly increases. The result is that decisions are made faster, that information available is ignored or reduced in its meaning, and fewer precautions are taken against the consequences of mistakes.

This can have serious consequences. Thus medical misdiagnosis of doctors with excessive self-confidence cost almost daily human life. But experience does not only involve risks, it can also protect against mistakes in decisions.

Knowledge alone does not protect

Thinking traps are a consequence of how we perceive, think, learn and feel. They result from our psychic processes. As a rule, we are not aware of these processes, which is why it is usually not recognizable in everyday life when we maneuver ourselves into a thought trap.

Knowing the phenomena of planning error and control illusion, and knowing that people systematically surpass themselves, does not protect against these thinking. What do they think they are good at in their job? My guess is that most people rate themselves as average to above-average. What influence do you have on your work results? Most probably assume a large to complete influence.

When was the last time you did something new?

Then, please consider what impact your supervisor and their clients have on their actions and the evaluation of their work results. What do you think about how much you are an expert in your field of work?

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Then ask yourself, when did you last try a new approach, a new approach, although they were skeptical. In order to recognize and to avoid these, we must always actively question ourselves and our actions.

Unforeseeable events are to be expected

But most of these supposedly unpredictable events are to be expected. For example, the disease is predictable by key project staff. A list of unpredictable events from recent projects provides a very good guide. Unfortunately, these latter points, though well-known, are often neglected in planning.

Does this mean that you should plan projects better with the help of so-called worst-case scenarios? No, because such scenarios, in which everything thinkable goes wrong, are exactly unrealistic, like best-case scenarios in which everything goes smoothly. It is important to make sure that we are intuitively inclined to the best-case scenario and to correct this slope.


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