Integral Theory and Project Management—tenet #6


This series of posts take the Ken Wilber’s introduction to Integral Theory called A Brief History of Everything and discusses the 12 main tenets concerning the concept of a holon and how they can be applied to the field of project management.  I have been posting one tenet a week on Sundays; this post covers tenet #6.

1.  Recap–definition of a holon, and tenets #1-5

A holon is an entity which consists of components, and yet is itself a component of a larger whole.

Tenet #1. Reality as a whole is not composed of things or processes, but of holons.

Holons must be considered from the standpoint of interacting with other holons on the same level, and with holons at higher levels (of which the holon is just a part) and lower levels (which comprise the parts of the holon).

Tenet #2 Holons display four fundamental capacities: The horizontal capacities of self-preservation, self-adaptation, and the vertical capacities of self-transcendence and self-dissolution.

Holons follow the dual rules of evolution when it comes to holons at the same level:    survival of the fittest (self-preservation) and survival of the fitting (self-adaptation).    Holons have the property of being able to evolve to the next highest level (self-transcendence), and they can also “devolve” into their component parts (self-dissolution).

Tenet #3 Holons emerge

As mentioned in Tenet #2, holons have the property of self-transcendence or evolution to the next highest level.    This is not just a higher degree of organization, but also involves emergent properties or differences in kind from the level below.

Tenet #4 Holons emerge holarchically

Holons, as seen above, are units that are both wholes containing parts and parts of larger wholes.   This kind of nested or concentric linking of holons reminiscent of the Russian matroshka dolls is considered a holarchy.    In contrast, we see in an organizational chart the traditional notion where parts are linked vertically to the levels above them (the notion of hierarchy), and horizontally to the units at the same level (the notion of a heterarchy).

Tenet #5  Each emergent holon transcends but includes its predecessor(s)

When a higher level of holons emerges, it incorporates the holons from a lower level but adds emergent properties.  A cell contains molecules, but is an entity which is capable of reproduction, where a property that goes above and beyond what a mere collection of molecules could do on its own.

2.  Tenet #6

The lower sets the possibilities of the higher; the higher sets the probabilities of the lower.

Tenet #5 tells us that the higher level of holon has emergent properties which go above and beyond the lower level.  However, tenet #6 says that the higher level cannot ignore the lower level, and it there is bound to a certain extent by the possibilities set by the holons of the lower level.  However, the higher level also affects the lower level in that, the order imposed by the higher level of holons will influence the patterns in which the lower levels interact.

This tenet is a little abstract, but putting it in the context of project management will illustrate it so that it is more intuitive.  As a project manager, you have members of your project team.  You are the higher level of holon, and the team members are the lower level.  What you can accomplish is limited absolutely by the abilities of team members and the resources available to them.  So it is vital as a project manager that you make sure that the team members have the resources they need, and then that they have the abilities to use those resources to get their jobs done.  If the resources run out, then no matter how talented your team members are, they won’t be able to accomplish their jobs on the project.  If they have the resources, and yet don’t have sufficient training to be able to utilize them, they won’t be able to accomplish their jobs on the project.  They have to these minimums in order to proceed.  This is an illustration of the first part of the tenet that the lower sets the possibilities of the higher.  It tells you what is necessary for your project team to succeed.

Now let’s say that they have the minimum requirements to do their job.  They have the possibility of getting it done now.  But how well they do it, and with what attitude they do it, is affected by the leadership of the project manager.  As the project manager, your leadership supplies more than what is necessary, but also what is sufficient for them succeed.  In The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell, the very first law is “The Law of the Lid”, which says Leadership ability is the lid that determines a person’s level of effectiveness.  You can give them the tools of the job so that they can do it, but you can help bring out their best, in other words, have them be more effective, by the example of your own effective leadership.

This tenet is important in that it shows that what a project manager can accomplish is limited by those on the project team, but the project manager can boost what the project team actually accomplishes through leadership.

The next post will cover tenet #7.

Science and Religion—5 Models of Interaction: a talk at Common Ground


On Wednesday, September 11th, Jim Kenney, one of the co-founders of Common Ground, a group devoted to interfaith dialogue, went to one of the “satellite campuses” of Common Ground in Flossmoor IL to put on a two-hour version of a talk on the various models by which the interaction between science and religion have been characterized.  This post is a summary of this talk.

1.  Science and Religion as Enemies

In this model, called conflict theory, science and religion are locked in mortal combat, and there can only be one winner and one loser.   In game theory, a conflict in which there is only the possibility of a winner and loser is called a zero-sum game.  A non-zero-sum game would be one that admits the possibility of both sides coming out winning.  Robert Wright has written a book on the history of the ethical evolution of mankind called Nonzero:  The Logic of Human Destiny, in which he posits the claim that the history of ethics is a gradual shift from zero-sum games to non-zero sum games.

In 1875, the President of the French Academy of Sciences predicted that the success of science in answering all of the remaining questions would be total by 1925, and that success would be concomitant with the eclipse of religion to the point where it would totally disappear by that same date.

That prediction was so wildly optimistic as to be laughable now, but note that the total success of science automatically implied to the scientists at the time the total annihilation of religion.

2.  Science and Religion as Strangers

Stephen J. Gould, the contentious but brilliant evolutionary biologist, conceived of the idea that science and religion were nonoverlapping magisteria, where a magisterium is understood to be an “area of expertise or authority.”  Science has one area of expertise, and religion has another.  And never the twain shall meet, according to this model.

3.  Science and Religion as Neighbors

When a stranger comes to live next to you, he or she is gradually considered a neighbor.  And like neighbors, they became acquaintances with whom you may have some things in common.  In the case of religion and science, according to physicists Charles Coulson and Harold Schilling, the methods of science and religion have much in common.  They both require critical reflection, and have a threefold structure of

  • Experience
  • Theoretical Interpretation
  • Practical Application

They also evolve not by the mere collecting of facts, but by advances of creative imagination, which Thomas Kuhn in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions called “paradigm shifts.”

However, there can be misunderstandings between neighbors, and one of the misunderstandings between religion and science is the confusion of mythos and logos, or between narrative and logic.  A polemical atheist like Richard Dawkins thinks that religion is to be decried when it can’t handle facts which contradict a certain narrative as set forth in some so-called sacred text.

Another difference between science and religion is that science is descriptive in describing what is and religion is prescriptive in describing what should be.  When religion tries to describe what is, or when science tries to dictate what should be, then there is increased possibility of misunderstanding.

4.  Science and Religion as Allies

There may be differences between allies, but the fact that they both face a common enemy should cause them to focus on their similarities rather than their differences, and to see the areas where they can most fruitfully cooperate.

The enemy of science and religion would be common problems faced by all humanity, the most prominent of which is the threat of the effects of climate change.

The International Society for Religion and Science or ISSR in the UK (www.issr.org.uk), formed in 2002, and the Center for the Study of Science and Religion at Columbia University, are two examples of recent efforts to bring together leading figures in both science and religion to foster mutual understanding and collaboration.  One good example of that collaboration is The Universe Story, written by the cosmologist Brian Swimme and the theologian Father Thomas Berry.  By being able to combine the facts of cosmic evolution with a compelling narrative, the two of them can give a picture of humanity’s place in the evolution of the cosmos which is only enhanced by the respectful interaction between religion and science.

5.  Science and Religion as Relatives

The reason why science and religion have differences and yet evolve along certain similar lines is because they are related.  How they are related is illuminated by Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory, in which reality can be looked at across two separate dimensions:

  • Interior experiences vs. exterior observations
  • Individual perspectives vs. collective perspectives

These combine to form four quadrants or perspectives as follows:

  • Upper-left quadrant—“I” perspective, intentional
  • Upper-left quadrant—“it” perspective, behavioral
  • Lower-left quadrant—“we” perspective, cultural
  • Lower-right quadrant—“they” perspective, social

In this perspective, science belongs to the “it” perspective, an individual’s spirituality belongs to the “I” perspective, religion belongs to the “we” perspective, and the culture belongs to the “they” perspective.  These perspectives are different and that is why religion and science are different approaches, because they belong to different quadrants which look at the same reality in fundamentally different ways.

However, despite the fundamental difference, just like relatives, they share some fundamental similarities or ontological DNA through the fact that their evolution obeys the same laws.  And that is why there can be communication between them.

The meta-perspective brought by Integral Theory makes sense of the 4 other models that have been referred to, and that is why Jim Kenney respectfully referred to Ken Wilber as the “most important living philosopher whom you’ve probably never heard of.”

If you are interested in hearing more about this topic, Jim Kenney is giving a three-part workshop to be held from 9:30-11:30 AM on September 25, October 2, and October 9 at the “main campus” of Common Ground in Deerfield, IL at 815 Rosemary Terrace, Deerfield, IL  60015.  For more information go the following link:

http://www.cg.org/Calendar/Workshops/Wednesday-Mornings/Science-and-Religion%E2%80%94Strangers,-Antagonists,-or-Al.aspx

 

The Relationship between Risk Management and Stakeholder Management


1.   Introduction

I have the pleasure of working with Mark Wilson from the Dale Carnegie Institute in Chicago, who is preparing for a presentation to be given by the PMI-Chicagoland chapter’s Professional Development Day event on November 1st.    As we were discussing his proposal for a presentation, we were talking about the general analysis of stakeholders into four main categories based on the combination of two variables, a) their interest in the project, and b) their power or influence on the project.    This analysis is done as part of the first stakeholder management process 13.1 Identify Stakeholders after all the stakeholders have been identified.    Here are the four possibilities that emerge from this analysis:

This is a very gross simplification of these four strategies, but you can get the general picture from the diagram above.   When Mark looked at that, he said the diagram reminded him of the diagram which analyzes the four main risk response strategies, something that is done in the process 11.3 Perform Qualitative Risk Analysis.

There the analysis is done based on, again, the intersection of two variables, but there the variables are a) probability of an event occurring, and b) the impact of the event when it occurs.    Now that event can have a positive (+) or a negative (-) impact, in which case the strategies are diametrically opposite.   For example, if the probability is high and the impact is high, you want to avoid it if it’s going to have a negative impact, but you want to exploit it if it’s going to have a positive impact.

Here’s a matrix which outlines the four strategies based on these two variables.

Probability Impact Strategy (-) Strategy (+)
High High Avoid Exploit
Low High Transfer Share
High Low Mitigate Enhance
Low Low Accept Accept

This observation of Mark Wilson’s, that the structure of the analysis of risk response strategies and stakeholder engagement strategies are similar, made me think, is there any deeper structural connection between risk management and stakeholder management?     That is the subject of this post.

2.  Similarities in objectives

One of the ways to see the structural links between risk management and stakeholder management is to look at the definitions based on the PMBOK Guide.    The definition of risk is an uncertain event or condition that, if it occurs, has a positive or negative effect on one or more project objectives.   The definition of a stakeholder is an individual, group, or organization who may [positively or negatively] affect, or be affected by, the outcome of a project.    I confess that I added the phrase “positively or negatively” to make it clear that the definitions are parallel.   In the case of risk, therefore, an event may affect the project either positively or negatively; in the case of a stakeholder, a person may affect the project either positively or negatively.

But if you are concerned about the outcome of your project, you need to be concerned about BOTH of these possible impacts on your project.    Now people are not things or events, and you need to approach them differently.   For example, you cannot “avoid” or “transfer” a stakeholder that has a potentially negative impact on your project in the same way you could handle a risk that has a potentially negative impact on your project.    But you could draw parallels with some of the other risk response strategies and stakeholder engagement strategies, like that of mitigating negative risks/stakeholders or enhancing positive risks/stakeholders.

3.  Similarities in management approach

The project management institute, in the last edition of the PMBOK Guide, seems to trying to change the paradigm of project managers from dealing with risks that are occurring now through corrective actions to dealing with risks that may occur in the future through preventive actions.    In a similar way, it seems like in the new 5th Edition of the PMBOK Guide, PMI is trying to shift the paradigm of stakeholder engagement from corrective actions to preventive actions by a) creating stakeholder management as its own knowledge area (it used to be subsumed under communications management) and b) moving stakeholder management to top priority, along with the creation of the project charter, as part of the initiating process before detailed planning on the project even starts to take place.

4.  Similarities in patterns of analysis

The analysis of risk in the risk management knowledge area goes from the macro level (11.3 Perform Qualitative Risk Analysis), where the risks are analyzed in terms of  general categories of risk responses, to the micro level (11.4 Perform Quantitative Risk Analysis), where each individual risk is analyzed, and a response generated (11.6 Plan Risk Responses).    In a similar way, in the stakeholder management area, the analysis of stakeholders and their levels of engagement go from the macro level (13.1 Identify Stakeholders), where the general category of stakeholder engagement response is analyzed, to the micro level (13.2 Plan Stakeholder Management), where the current and desired engagement level of each individual stakeholder is analyzed, and a strategy generated (put in the Stakeholder Management Plan).

5.   Differences between Risk Management and Stakeholder Management

For all the similarities between risk management and stakeholder management, in objectives, approach, and patterns of analysis, the big difference between them is that stakeholder management deals with people rather than events that could impact a project.    Because of this, stakeholder management requires interpersonal skills of communication and influencing people that risk management does not.    That, in fact, is why I am excited to have someone from the Dale Carnegie Institute, which excels in the training of just those types of interpersonal skills (among others), talk about Stakeholder Management because I’m sure he will bring a lot of useful tools to the table, so to speak.

Because we are dealing with people rather than events, there is the opportunity with stakeholder management that you don’t have in risk management; you can influence them so that you can turn a negative stakeholder into a positive stakeholder, whereas you have much less ability to influence events.    You can prepare for a rainy day, but you can’t make it shine rather than rain.    However, if some stakeholder is figuratively “raining on your parade”, there are ways to bring that stakeholder around.    The unpredictability of human behavior is the daunting aspect of stakeholder management, but that very pliability of human behavior is also its most challenging aspect, one that a project manager must learn to master if he or she is to guarantee the success of a project.

5th Edition PMBOK Guide–Chapter 13: Process 13.4 Control Stakeholder Management


1.  Introduction

The fourth out of four procurement-related project management processes is in the Monitoring & Controlling Process group, and is the process which monitors the current engagement level of stakeholders and takes action if that level is not in line with the desired level of engagement at that point in the project.

2.  Inputs

These come from the stakeholder management plan, which has in previous processes identified stakeholders and analyzed them with regards to strategies on a macro level, based on their impact and interest level, and then on a micro level with regards to their individual level of engagement (unaware, resistant, neutral, supportive, or leading).

The issue log is used to record any new issues that come up or to note the resolution of any current issues.    Work performance data is used as an input, where it is analyzed in the course of this process.

The change log and of course the stakeholder register are inputs to this process as well.

13.3 MANAGE STAKEHOLDER MANAGEMENT
INPUTS
1. Stakeholder Management Plan
  • Life cycle for the project (project phases)
  • How work will be executed to accomplish project objectives
  • Human resources requirements:  roles and responsibilities, reporting relationships, staffing management
  • Change management plan
  • Communication management plan
  • Stakeholder management plan–gives current and desired level of stakeholder engagement
2. Issue log
  • New issues are identified
  • Current issues are resolved
3. Work Performance Data
  • Percentage of work completed
  • Technical performance measures
  • Number of change requests
  • Number of defects
  • Budgeted costs vs. actual costs
  • Scheduled activity durations vs. actual durations
4. Project Documents
  • Project schedule
  • Stakeholder register
  • Change log
TOOLS & TECHNIQUES
1. Information Management Systems Helps capture, store, and distribute information to stakeholders on project cost, schedule progress, and performance
2. Expert Judgment Engagement levels of stakeholders are monitored and adjusted by conferring with

  • Senior management
  • Key stakeholders
  • Project managers on other projects in same area
  • SMEs in business or project area
  • Industry groups and consultants
3. Meetings
  • Status review meetings are used to analyze information about stakeholder engagement
OUTPUTS
1. Work performance information Performance data that are collected, analyzed, and integrated.
2. Change requests Analysis of project performance and interactions with stakeholders may generate change requests.
3. Project management plan updates
  • Any of the subsidiary management plans for the various knowledge areas, including stakeholder management, could be changed.
4. Project documents updates
  • Stakeholder register—identification of new stakeholders, change in engagement level of existing stakeholders
  • Issue log–as new issues identified or current issues resolved.
5. OPAs updates
  • Stakeholder notifications
  • Project reports, presentations, records
  • Feedback from stakeholders
  • Lessons learned documentation

3.  Tools & Techniques

The main tool used is the information management system, such as Microsoft Project or Primavera.   Expert judgment and meetings are used to a) analyze the performance data and integrate it to produce useable performance information (how is the project doing as compared to where it should be at this point?), and b) analyze the impact that this will have on various stakeholders.

4.  Outputs

The performance information created in the process is then transmitted to the stakeholders as per the stakeholder and communication management plan.    Change requests might result, not as the result of a change in the project scope, as in the previous process, but due to the change in performance on the project itself.

If in the course of the project, the stakeholders have new requirements or needs, or if those needs change, the stakeholder management plan should be changed to reflect this.    But ANY of the knowledge areas may be affected by the performance information and the stakeholders reaction to it.

The issue log may be updated, as well as the stakeholder register to reflect changing levels of current stakeholder engagement, or changes in the desired level of stakeholder engagement, which may change during the various phases of the project.

This concludes the review of the last of the processes for the stakeholder management area

5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—Chapter 13: Process 13.3 Manage Stakeholder Engagement


1.  Introduction

The third out of four procurement-related project management processes is in the Executing Process group, and is the process which communicates and engages with stakeholders throughout the project in order to meet their needs, address issues, and support stakeholder engagement.  By reducing resistance from stakeholders and gaining their support, a project manager can increase the chances for success on a project.

2.  Inputs

These come from the stakeholder management plan, which has in previous processes identified stakeholders and analyzed them with regards to strategies on a macro level, based on their impact and interest level, and then on a micro level with regards to their individual level of engagement (unaware, resistant, neutral, supportive, or leading).

Change requests that are approved are one of the things that trigger communication to and engagement with stakeholders to monitor the impact of those changes.

Any organizational procedures dealing with the management of issues and change control are also inputs, along with historical information gleaned from previous, similar projects.

13.3 MANAGE STAKEHOLDER MANAGEMENT
INPUTS
1. Stakeholder Management Plan
  • Describes methods and technologies used for communication with stakeholders
  • Determines current level and desired level of stakeholder engagement
  • Describes strategy for managing stakeholders throughout the project life cycle.
2. Communications Management Plan
  • Stakeholder communication requirements
  • Information to be communicated, and reason for distribution
  • Escalation process
3. Change log Documents changes that occur on a project, and their impact on the project’s time, cost and risk.
4. OPAs
  • Organizational communication requirements
  • Issue management procedures
  • Change control procedures
  • Historical information on similar projects
TOOLS & TECHNIQUES
1. Communication Methods Methods of communication specified for each stakeholder are utilized as set forth in Communications Management Plan.
2. Interpersonal Skills Engagement levels of stakeholders are managed by

  • Building trust
  • Resolving conflict
  • Active listening
  • Overcoming resistance to change
3. Management Skills Coordination and harmonization the group toward accomplishment of project objectives through:

  • Facilitation of consensus
  • Influencing people to support project
  • Negotiation of agreements to satisfy project needs
  • Modification of organizational behavior to accept project outcomes
OUTPUTS
1. Issue log Identifies issues and records their resolution.
2. Change requests Change requests to the product or the project may require interaction with the impacted stakeholders.
3. Project management plan updates
  • Stakeholder management plan—new or changed stakeholder requirements
  • Communication management plan—new or changed communication requirements
4. Project documents updates
  • Stakeholder register—identification of new stakeholders, change in engagement level of existing stakeholders
5. OPAs updates
  • Stakeholder notifications
  • Project reports, presentations, records
  • Feedback from stakeholders
  • Lessons learned documentation

3.  Tools & Techniques

The communication methods laid out in the stakeholder and communication management plans are carried out, both interpersonal and management skills are used to manage the stakeholders level of engagement in the project.

4.  Outputs

The issue log identifies issues and records their resolution.  If changes are requested, the stakeholders who may be impacted by those proposed changes need to be communicated with to gauge their reaction.

If in the course of the project, the stakeholders have new requirements or needs, or if those needs change, the stakeholder management plan should be changed to reflect this.  Also, if the requirements for communicating with the stakeholders change, these must be reflected in the communication management plan.

Any changes in the engagement of specific stakeholders need to be included in updates to the stakeholder register, and the company should keep the experience with stakeholders on the current project in mind for inclusion in lessons learned documentation, which may help stakeholder management on future projects.

The next post will cover the last stakeholder management process, 13.4 Control Stakeholder Engagement.

5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—Stakeholder Management Plan


1.  Introduction

The output of process 13.2 Plan Stakeholder Management, is the Stakeholder Management Plan.  The purpose of this post is to list the elements of that plan, by taking the list that occurs in the PMBOK® guide and organizing the elements by knowledge area.

2.  Stakeholder Management Plan

  Category Element Description
1. Integration Method for updating stakeholder management plan, including review of the validity of underlying assumptions
2. Scope Impact of any changes in scope on stakeholders
3. Time Frequency of distribution of information to stakeholders
4. Communication Communication requirements for stakeholders
5. Information to be distributed to stakeholders:  language, format, content, level of detail
6. Reason for distribution of information to stakeholders and expected impact on engagement level
7.. Stakeholder Current and desired engagement level of stakeholders
8. Interrelationships, potential overlap between stakeholders

As you can see from the elements of the Stakeholder Management Plan, many of the elements deal with the communication knowledge area.  This is understandable since Stakeholder Management used to be considered part of the Communications Management knowledge area in previous editions of the PMBOK® Guide, but has become a separate knowledge area in the 5th Edition.

Also, you can see that scope is important, in that any proposed changes have to include their projected impact on stakeholders.  In addition, any change proposed changes from stakeholders must include their projected impact on the other stakeholders.

Finally, there is provision in the plan for revision to the Stakeholder Management Plan if certain changes occur on the project which may alter the engagement level of any, or all, of the stakeholders.

The next post will discuss the inputs, tools & techniques, and outputs of the next process, 13.3 Manage Stakeholders.

5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—Chapter 13: Analyzing Stakeholder Engagement


1.   Introduction

As part of process 13.2 Plan Stakeholder Management, one of the tools involved is Analytical Techniques.    Actually, stakeholders have already been analyzed on a macro level in the previous process, 13.1 Identify Stakeholders.   In that process, which is in the Initiating Process Group, stakeholders are identified and analyzed as having low or high power or influence on the project, and low or high interest in the project.    The intersection of these two categories gives four quadrants of possibilities, each with its own general method for engaging the stakeholders, as seen in the following diagram.

 

 

This process takes the analysis from the macro to the micro level, and for each stakeholderthe current engagement level is determined (by interviewing the stakeholders), the desired engagement level is determined by the project management team, and then actions are identified that will bring the current level in line with the desired level.

2.   Analytical Techniques

One of the ways to analyze the current engagement level is along a scale as listed below:

a.   Unaware–of project and potential impacts

b.   Resistant–aware of project and potential impacts and resistant to change

c.   Neutral–aware of project, yet neither supportive nor resistant

d.  Supportive–aware of project and potential impacts and supportive to change

e.  Leading–aware of project and potential impacts and actively engaged in ensuring the project a success.

For the list of stakeholders in the stakeholder register, a Stakeholders Engagement Assessment Matrix is created where a C is put in one of the five columns Unaware, Resistant, Neutral, Supportive, and Leading for the current engagement level of that stakeholder.    Based on a realistic appraisal obtained through expert judgment and meetings (other techniques of the process 13.2 Plan Stakeholder Management), a D is put at the desired level.

Then actions and communications required to close the gaps between the C or current engagement level and the D or desired engagement level are identified, again using expert judgment and meetings.

The Stakeholders Engagement Assessment Matrix is then used to update the Stakeholder Register.

The next post talks about the main output of this process, the Stakeholder Management Plan, and what elements it consists of.

Integral Theory and Project Management–Tenet #5


This series of posts take the Ken Wilber’s introduction to Integral Theory called A Brief History of Everything and discusses the 20 tenets concerning the concept of a holon and how they can be applied to the field of project management.   This post covers tenet #5.    I have been posting one tenet a week on Sundays in a event to cover the 20 tenets in some detail, at least as far as my understanding of them goes.

NOTE:  When I recently looked at Appendix A in A Brief History of Everything which lists all 20 tenets, I realized that he has broken some of the original 12 tenets into subparts, so what I plan to do is post on the original 12.    It will be a more coherent presentation of the tenets that way, in my opinion.  

1.  Recap–definition of a holon

A holon is an entity which consists of components, and yet is itself a component of a larger whole. The reason for the introduction of the concept is that bridges the philosophical divide between those who think that reality is composed of isolated units (atomism) and those who think that it is composed of a large web of interconnected parts). The first two tenets are as follows:

2.  Recap of tenets #1-4 (for details on these tenets, refer to previous posts)

Tenet #1. Reality as a whole is not composed of things or processes, but of holons.

Holons must be considered from the standpoint of interacting with other holons on the same level, and with holons at higher levels (of which the holon is just a part) and lower levels (which comprise the parts of the holon).

Tenet #2 Holons display four fundamental capacities: The horizontal capacities of self-preservation, self-adaptation, and the vertical capacities of self-transcendence and self-dissolution.

Holons follow the dual rules of evolution when it comes to holons at the same level:    survival of the fittest (self-preservation) and survival of the fitting (self-adaptation).    Holons have the property of being able to evolve to the next highest level (self-transcendence), and they can also “devolve” into their component parts (self-dissolution).

Tenet #3 Holons emerge

As mentioned in Tenet #2, holons have the property of self-transcendence or evolution to the next highest level.    This is not just a higher degree of organization, but also involves emergent properties or differences in kind from the level below.

Tenet #4 Holons emerge holarchically

Holons, as seen above, are units that are both wholes containing parts and parts of larger wholes.   This kind of nested or concentric linking of holons reminiscent of the Russian matroshka dolls is considered a holarchy.    In contrast, we see in an organizational chart the traditional notion where parts are linked vertically to the levels above them (the notion of hierarchy), and horizontally to the units at the same level (the notion of a heterarchy).

3.   Tenet #5

The fifth holon is as follows:

Each emergent holon transcends but includes its predecessor(s)

This can be seen by realizing that holons, the units that are both wholes containing parts and parts of larger wholes, link up to higher levels and down to lower levels concentrically rather than in just a horizontal and vertical fashion, like you would get in an organizational chart.    An example from biology would be the fact that atoms form molecules, which in turn link together to form cells, which in turn link together to form organisms.    This holarchical system of concentric organization of systems may seem like a modern idea, but it exists already in classical philosophy and medieval theology.

An example from classical philosophy would be Aristotle’s classification of the different “souls” of organisms.   The word “soul” did not mean what we mean by it today; the “soul” of an organism to Aristotle meant more like the concept of the potentialities or capabilities of that organism.     Here are the three levels of “souls” according to Aristotle

a.   Plants contain a vegetative soul, which allows the organism to take in nutrients.

b.   Animals also contains a vegetative soul, because they take in nutrients, but they also have a motive soul, which allows them to move and reproduce.

c.   Humans contain both a vegetative soul and a motive soul, because they take in nutrients, and they move and reproduce, but they also have a rational soul, which allows them to think and reflect consciously.

In medieval theology, this system was expanded to include a spiritual dimension, and thus a theological system called The Great Chain of Being was developed, as denoted by the diagram below.

 

Another way of looking at this concentric arrangement of holons is to say that a holon preserves the existence of lower levels of holons, but negates their separateness or isolatedness by binding them in a larger, more complex whole.   There is a downward causation or downward influence where a higher level holon limits the degrees of freedom of the lower holons, and organizes them into new patterns.

4.   Application to Project Management

A team member is part of a project; the project includes its team members, but transcends them as individuals by virtue of the project plan, which organizes their individual efforts in such a way as to accomplish the objectives of that project.   A project manager can preserve the integrity of the individual members by encouraging their talents and capabilities; at the same time, he or she must negate their separateness or tendency to work at cross-purposes by articulating the vision of the project at the outset.

If you go on to the higher level of the organization, you can see that a project is part of an organization; there can be intermediate levels such as a program or portfolio.    But in any case, a project must serve the strategic business objectives of the organization.    Management can preserve the integrity of the individual projects by giving them the resources they need to be completed; however, management must also negate the tendency to take so many resources that the larger strategic business objectives cannot be met.    A project manager can help with this as well by understanding those strategic objectives and making sure that the project is in line with them.    Any proposed changes to the project must be analyzed, therefore, not only with regards to the effects of those proposed changes on the various constraints of the project (mainly the scope, time and cost), but also with regards to these strategic objectives.

For example, if a project was picked because its return on investment (ROI) was more favorable than other projects that could have been chosen, then if changes to the project require that it take longer than expected, then the project manager must compute the new ROI (which in this example would most likely be lower than before) and make sure that the new ROI is still favorable to those of the projects.    If not, then the project manager must coordinate in two directions:   he or she must communicate to management and to the team members that this proposed change will no longer align it with the strategic objectives.    The team members must be therefore aware that this change in the project may require that the management cannot no longer support it and may therefore “pull the plug” and close the project prematurely.    This may make them come up with a different solution that produces the objectives of the project without jeopardizing the overall strategic objectives of the organism.

5.   Conclusion

The fact that an emergent holon includes but also transcends its predecessors (i.e., lower-level holons) has important implications for project management in that the higher level must utilize all the capabilities and potentialities of the units from the level level, but must add to it a higher level of organization or patterning which keeps those units from working against each other, and for a common purpose.    As a project manager, being sensitive to this principle will help motivate your team members, who depend in part on the leadership of the project manager for motivation, and will help maintain good relations with management, upon whose resources your project depends.

The post one week from today will cover tenet #6.

Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America


On Labor Day weekend, I finished reading the book by Rick Perlstein called Nixonland:  The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America.    I had been listening to an Audiobook version of the book during the summer and completed the last CD during the weekend–I decided to do a blog post today based on my impressions of the book.

1.   My Childhood through the Looking Glass of History

For someone who grew up in the 1960s, it was interesting to hear a history of the times one lived through in the hazy, distant memory of childhood.    The Cuban missile crisis, the Civil Rights movement, the Kennedy assassination, the Vietnam War, the 1968 Democratic Convention, the various cultural movements (the “women’s lib” movement, the gay rights movement), the beginning of the ecology movement, Nixon’s visit to China and the opening of US-China relations, the beginning of negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union (SALT I), the Six-Day War in 1967 war between Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt, Jordan and Syria, and the NASA’s Apollo Program, culminating in the visits by 12 American astronauts to the surface of the moon starting with Neil Armstrong in 1969, were all formative events of the 1960s that I remember reading about in the newspapers.     My father was a newspaper reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times and he bequeathed to me his interest in world events and in history.

Now being able to see those events with the 20-20 hindsight that history affords, I can see that there are links between those times and the world we live in.    Nixonland is a book that really brought this truth home to me.    In 7th grade, our social studies teacher Mr. Siegel did an experimental summer camp on the subject of history where over a series of 6 weeks, he took the events of the Vietnam war and went back in increments of 5 years to show how we got into the situation we were in.    Since we were in 1970, this involved explaining how the war in 1965 had been ramped up by President Johnson after the Gulf of Tolkin had given him the ostensible reason for getting the military involved openly and not just in an “advisory capacity.”   Then we went back to 1960, where were introduced to the political players in North and South Vietnam,  Ho Chi Minh and Ngo Dinh Diem, respectively.    Back to 1955, we learned the French had been booted out the previous year, and that there was a battle to create an “independent” South Vietnam at the Battle of Saigon, where Ngo Dinh Diem ended up taking control.    On and on we went back to World War II, where the liberation from the Japanese led many Vietnamese to believe that they were going to be a free country, only to find out that the victorious Allies had “rewarded” their country to France as part of French Indochina.   By playing the tape of history backwards, we gained an understanding of the conflict that few 7th graders (or indeed few Americans at that time) were afforded.    Mr. Siegel even had a “pro-war” and “anti-war” debate between two veterans, one from World War II and one from the Vietnam War.    

He insisted we hear both sides of the debate, and although I remember siding with the Vietnam veteran in the debate, and, although I suspected Mr. Siegel sympathized with the anti-war side of the debate (he refused to give his opinion on the war openly), I was impressed with two things:   first, the respect that Mr. Siegel showed the other side of the debate, and second, the fact that wanted to arm us not with weapons of war, but with weapons of knowledge so that we would at least be making an informed decision when it came time for us to vote (which for us was 5 years in the future).

His enlightened approach to the teaching of history has stuck with me for the rest of my life.    History is not about the past; hell, it’s not even past.    We’re living with the results …

2.   The Fracturing of America

Rick Perlstein’s book was like taking the present red state-blue state divide and playing the tape of history backwards to see where a lot of the “fracturing” started.   His thesis is that Richard Nixon was at the forefront of the manipulation of social and political forces between 1965 and 1972 which reshaped the political landscape from a liberal-leaning consensus at the time of the Kennedy assassination (culminating in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964), into two separate and irreconcilable groups of Americans.     The two main forces that led impetus to this “counter-revolution” against this liberal consensus were a) the backlash against the gains made by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and b) the backlash against the anti-war movement.    Nixon him able to make political headway out of these two forces because of his ability to tap into the resentments of various constituencies that felt that their concerns were being marginalized by the civil rights and/or the anti-war movement.    How was he able to tap into these populist pressures?    Because he shared them.    He styled himself as an “Orthogonian”, one of the names of the social clubs at Whittier College that was composed of the social strivers, as opposed to the privileged elite, the so-called “Franklins”.    Growing up poor gave him an empathy with the common man which he never forgot, and which he used to great effect throughout his political career.

The fracturing of America went along two lines as mentioned above, with Nixon shepherding the exit of the southern Dixiecrats who opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to the Republican Party, and the bolstering of the cultural backlash against the anti-war movement and the progressive social movements of women’s lib, gay liberation, etc.    You can see those movements playing out in the Republican Party of today.    However, the gerrymandering of various states’ election districts has made a kind of right-ratcheting effect so that there is more pressure for the Republican Party to move to the right (due to fear of primary challenges from the far right) than there is to move to the left (due to challenges against the Democratic party in the general election).    So what we see today is a Republican party that, while it would welcome Nixon’s views in the area of race and culture, would be so far to the right that it would see him as a liberal president.

3.   The Last Liberal President

Let’s take the five areas of the Global Risk report of 2013 as produced by the World Economic Forum:    economic, environmental, geopolitical, social, and technological.     In the “social” arena, as mentioned above, his support of those forces that opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the various social progressive movements engendered by the energy behind the anti-war movement, would have put him firmly in the Republican camp of today.

Let’s look at the other 4 areas, however.    In the economic arena, he was certainly not a “free market fundamentalist” like Reagan or Thatcher; in fact, he was willing to use wage & price controls to slow the growth of inflation, which was anathema to Milton Friedman at the time.    He would have been judged a liberal in the economic arena by today’s standards.    Also, the budgets of his administration had domestic spending exceeding military spending for the first time since World War II.   Liberal again!

In the environmental arena, Richard Nixon championed the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and subsequent regulatory efforts by that agency to reduce pollution, despite the protests from various manufacturers.   Liberal again!

In geopolitical terms, yes, he was a military hawk on Vietnam in order to get the U.S. to the point where it could end the war on favorable political terms.   However, rather than exacerbating the US-Soviet tensions to drum up support for military expenditures, he actually started creating the groundwork for a detente between the two powers, a temporary lessening of tension, that culminated in the signing of the anti-ballistic missile treaty SALT I.    And there a reason why, in Star Trek VI, the character of Spock is heard to say, “On Vulcan, we have a saying:  only Nixon can go to China.”   He was pragmatic and not as ideologically driven as later Republican Presidents such as Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush, and was therefore able to create an opportunity that I think no Democrat before him and certainly no Republican after him would have been able to accomplish.    Here he would have been considered a liberal by today’s Republican standards for “appeasing” our Communist rivals.

In the technological arena, he insisted on dismantling the American Space Program after the Apollo Program completed in the early 1970s.    The original plan by NASA was to have a permanent Moon base by the 1970s, and to start a mission to Mars in the 1980s.    That was the future that never was …   Here, I think he would have been more at home with the Republicans of today, who are if not anti-technology, certainly anti-science in some of their pronouncements.

Therefore, in 3 out of the 5 areas I have mentioned, economic, environmental, and geopolitical, Nixon would have been considered a Liberal president by today’s Republican party.    Nonetheless, the social arena is the one area where the beginnings of the fracturing of America are the most apparent, and for that reason, I agree with Rick Perlstein that, in terms of politics, we still live in Nixonland.    However, the current political situation with the far right Tea Party is such that it is increasing that fracturing, not decreasing it.

I sometimes wonder what it would take to create any consensus in this country, liberal or otherwise.    I honestly don’t know… as the blogger Driftglass who podcasts at The Professional Left once said:   human beings are the prisoners of our imaginations.  We grieve for the future we can imagine but not touch, or for golden ages that are no more–and never were.

5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—Chapter 13: Process 13.2 Plan Stakeholder Management


1.  Introduction

The first out of four stakeholder management-related project management processes is in the Initiating Process Group; this process is the second of the four processes, and is the one in the Planning Process group.    The purpose of this post is to give the inputs, tools & techniques, and outputs of this process 13.2, Plan Stakeholder Management, the main object of which is to a) analyze the engagement level of the stakeholders identified in process 13.1 Identify Stakeholders and b) create a Stakeholder Management Plan to manage and control that engagement level of stakeholders throughout the project.

2.  Inputs

There are several inputs to the stakeholder management plan.  The stakeholder register is an output of the previous stakeholder management process, 13.1 Identify Stakeholders.  Information from several subsidiary plans of the overall project management plan, such as the scope, change, human resources, and communications management plan, are helpful in analyzing the engagement level of stakeholders.  The company culture (part of EEFs) will point the way towards determining the best options to support a better adaptive process for making stakeholders.

Finally, if similar projects have been done in the past, then rather than reinventing the wheel, one can gain crucial insight on stakeholder management on the current project by seeing how it was handled on previous, similar projects with the understanding that some stakeholders, and their engagement levels, may have changed since then.

13.2 PLAN STAKEHOLDER MANAGEMENT
INPUTS
1. Project Management Plan
  • Scope management plan:  how project will be split up into phases (project life cycle), how work will be executed to accomplish project objectives
  • Change management plan:  how changes will be monitored and controlled
  • Human resources management plan:  roles and responsibilities, reporting relationships, staffing requirements
  • Communication management plan :  Communication needs, available communication techniques
2. Stakeholder Register The stakeholder register contains details concerning stakeholders, including:

  • Identification information
  • Stakeholder classification (internal/external, etc.)
  • Assessment information
3. EEFs A company’s organizational culture, structure, and political climate determine the best options for managing stakeholders.
4. OPAs Lessons learned database and historical information provide information on stakeholder management on previous, similar projects.
TOOLS & TECHNIQUES
1. Expert Judgment In order to assess the level of engagement required from each stakeholder at each stage of the project, the following experts should be consulted

  • Senior management
  • Project team members
  • Other functional units within the organization
  • Identified key stakeholders
  • Project managers (who have worked on similar projects)
  • Subject matter experts (SMEs) in business or project area
  • Industry groups or consultants
  • Professional and technical associations
  • Regulatory bodies, non-governmental associations (NGOs)
2. Meetings Meetings are used to define the required engagement levels of all stakeholders.
3. Analytical techniques Current engagement levels of stakeholders are compared to required engagement level.
OUTPUTS
1. Stakeholder Management Plan Identifies management strategies required to effectively engage stakeholders.
2. Project Documents Updates
  • Project schedule
  • Stakeholder register

3.  Tools & Techniques

Stakeholder analysis is so important that a wide variety of experts are consulted to help analyze the actual level and the desired level of engagement level of the various stakeholders.  These experts are the same ones that were consulted in the previous process to a) identify the stakeholders and b) analyze their interest and/or influence on the project in order to determine the general strategy for engaging them.

Meetings and analytic techniques are also used to conduct this analysis.    These analytic techniques will be describe in detail in one of the subsequent posts.

4.  Outputs

The main output of this process is the Stakeholder Management Plan, which identifies management strategies required to effectively engage stakeholders.  The results of the analysis of the stakeholder engagement level is then added to the stakeholder register.  Activities that are required to effectively engage stakeholders are explicitly added to the project schedule.

5.  Conclusion

Before going on to discuss the next process 13.3 Manage Stakeholder Engagement, I will first discuss a) what goes into the Stakeholder Management Plan (the main output of this process 13.2 Plan Stakeholder Management), and a further, more detailed look into the tools & techniques of this process, namely, the analysis of stakeholder engagement levels.