The cover story in the April issue of PM Network (“
Controlling Chaos”) promised to tell us how to protect our projects
against a flock of “black swans.” While much of the advice
is useful, it has little to do with the true black swan idea.
Events or circumstances with extremely low probability
and extremely high impact are in fact just risks, and they
can and should be tackled through
the normal risk process. There
is no useful reason to give them
the special name of black swans.
Unfortunately, the risk process
cannot address these unpredictable
The black swan is a valuable
concept that warns us to expect
the unexpected. We should be
careful to use the term properly and not dilute it through misuse or laziness. If we
mistakenly think that risks with very low probability and
very high impact are black swans, then we are likely to
remain blind to the existence of truly unpredictable shocks.
Instead, we should use the risk process to address known
unknowns, and rely on business continuity and resilience
techniques to protect us from the attack of the black swan.
—David Hillson, PMP, PMI Fellow
Petersfield, Hampshire, England
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
A Swan by Any Other Name
What’s your take? Continue this discussion in the Project
Risk Management Community of Practice.
>> Visit risk.vc.pmi.org for more information.
Daniel Hill, PMP, asks: What is a project
manager’s most important personality trait?
NK Shrivastava, PMI-RMP, PMP, responds: Listening
and communicating is the most important personality trait
for a project manager. Remember what the PMBOK® Guide
says — More than 90 percent of a project manager’s time
goes into communication. To be a good communicator,
you need to be a good listener first.
>> Join the discussion in the PMI Career Central group.
VOICES ON PROJECT MANAGEMENT BLOG
Project Managers in the C-Suite
Jim De Piante, PMP, writes:
For me, career growth means managing projects that are more
important, more valuable, more interesting or just more fun. Often,
this can mean bigger teams and bigger budgets, but for me, that
doesn’t necessarily translate into bigger thrills. Career growth
does not mean at all that I need to become an executive to feel
fulfilled. I see project management and executive management as
complementary, but very different, skills. To me, that means that
the two fields will appeal to two very different kinds of people,
depending on individual temperament.
Saira Karim, PMP, commented:
It would be fantastic if executives had more project management
training, but I do believe each role needs its own set of personalities
and skills. Project managers are doers/constructors, whereas the
executives are more of the painters and creators. Both need each
other and are complementary roles, and there should be some project management representation in executive management.
Matt Kirchman, PMP, commented:
Project managers, through ensuring that their projects are strategically aligned, are more tactically oriented. I think of accomplished project managers as the non-commissioned officers in the military. They
are the ones that help a unit (or team) accomplish a particular goal,
and their effectiveness is based on respect for what they can do, not
for their rank. I think it will continue to be rare for project managers to
move to the upper echelon of management, and I’m OK with that.
PMI members can access a related research report, Project Managers as Senior Executives: Volumes 1 and 2, at www.PMI.org/
>> Join the discussion at PMI.org/Voices.
Which of the following social media
vehicles do you use to support your
profession and/or career?
All of the above: 19%
From the Voices on Project Management blog at PMI.org
We love to hear from you! Write us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
>> FOLLOW US on Facebook: www.facebook.com/PMInstitute.