The powerful illusion of control

March 28, 2010

There have been a series of posts on the Mosaicproject blog discussing the illusion of control and the limitations of statistical analysis for predicting or controlling the future. The key posts are:

Another dimension to the illusion of control, identified in a study by Nathanael Fast and Deborah Gruenfeld at Stanford Graduate School of Business, Niro Sivanathan at the London Business School and Adam Galinsky at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, show that power can literally ‘go to one’s head’, causing individuals who have power to think they have more personal control over outcomes than they, in fact, do. Across three experiments, using two different instantiations of power, the researchers found that power led to perceived control over outcomes that were either uncontrollable or unrelated to the power.

Galinksy reported, “In each experiment, whether the participant recalled power by an experience of holding power or it was manipulated by randomly assigning participants to Manager-Subordinate roles, it led to perceived control over outcomes that were beyond the reach of the individual. Furthermore, the notion of being able to control a ‘chance’ result led to unrealistic optimism and inflated self-esteem.”

The authors note that positive illusions can be adaptive, helping power holders make the seemingly impossible possible. But the relationship between power and illusory control might also contribute directly to losses in power, by causing leaders to make poor choices. They conclude that “the illusion of personal control might be one of the ways in which power often leads to its own demise.”

These results, reported in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, have implications for how power, once attained, is maintained or lost. From an organisational perspective, the ability of knowledgeable technical managers to effectively advise upwards is a powerful counterbalance to unreasonable hubris [for more on the report see: Power And The Illusion Of Control].

My next book, Advising Upwards: A Framework for Understanding and Engaging Senior Management Stakeholders seeks to define the skills and knowledge needed to make sure important information is passed up the chain to senior managers.


The PMI Marketplace now selling Stakeholder Relationship Management

March 21, 2010

PMI has selected Stakeholder Relationship Management: A Maturity Model for Organisational Implementation for its on-line book store and will be promoting the book at the PMI EMEA congress in Milan (10-12 May).

I will be in Milan for the congress to present on ‘The future of the PM Hero’ followed by my SeminarsWorld® workshop ‘The science and art of communicating effectively’.

I will be happy to sign copies of the book for anyone who buys a copy during the congress and look forward to exploring the delights of Italy.


Dispute Avoidance & Resolution

March 13, 2010

One of the most combative industries world-wide is the building and engineering industry. Many legal systems have dedicated construction law courts and others have enacted legislation designed to specifically manage construction industry disputes. In Australia alone, it is estimated the construction industry could save AU$7 billion through better stakeholder and contract management processes that minimise or eliminate avoidable disputes.

Research in reducing theses excessive costs has resulted in the publication of The Guide to Leading Practice for Dispute Avoidance and Resolution. The Guide recommends management strategies to avoid contractual disputes between clients, contractors and other stakeholders, and where disputes cannot be avoided, to manage disputes effectively. Whilst this research was developed by the Australian building and construction industry it has a much wider application and is recommended reading for any manger involved in establishing or overseeing a major project.

The Guide was developed by the CRC for Construction Innovation prior to its closure in 2009. To achieve a balanced view, the CRC-CI engaged with a cross section of organisations in the built environment industry supply chain including the Association of Consulting Engineers Australia, Australian Constructors Association, Australian Procurement and Construction Council, Civil Contractors Federation, Queensland Dept. Transport and Main Roads and Main Roads Western Australia in the work leading to this report.

The CRC for Construction Innovation completed its work on the 31st December 2009 and has closed down. To keep these valuable reports in circulation we have created a repository on the Mosaic web site. The following publications and documents are available to download from the ‘Legal Papers section of the Mosaic site:
– Guide to Leading Practice for Dispute Avoidance and Resolution
– Guide to Leading Practice for Dispute Avoidance and Resolution: An overview
– Dispute Avoidance and Resolution (literature review)
– Causal Ascription of Disputes (report)
– Strategies for Dispute Avoidance (report)
– An exploratory study of project dispute pathogens (journal article)
– Causal Modelling of Construction Disputes (refereed conference paper)

Download The Guide and associated reports


Communication Planning

March 4, 2010

I have been posting a few bogs on communication recently, mainly focused on differentiating reporting from communicating.

Reports have a definite value but it is limited, ‘The Value of Reports’ posted on the PMI ‘Voices of Project Management’ blog defines their key uses.

The step beyond reporting is managing stakeholder perceptions. This was the topic of ‘Stakeholder Perceptions Are Paramount’ also posted on the PMI ‘Voices of Project Management’ blog.

These two posts and more were brought together in my paper ‘Beyond Reporting – The Communication Strategy’ presented last week at the PMI Asia Pacific congress.

What all of this feeds into is the process of developing an effective communication plan. Communication planning is more than just developing a report distribution list. It must involve the full spectrum of communication options deployed to engage effectively with stakeholders ranging from ‘lift meetings’ and coffees through to formal presentations.

This is one reason why our workshop, ‘How To’ develop a Communication Plan is separated from our SeminarsWorld® workshop The science and art of communicating effectively. Whilst communicating without a plan can be counterproductive, the communication plan itself needs to canvass both the efforts needed to ‘communicate for effect’ and the routine distribution of reports.