Elmar Kutsch, PhD, is a senior lecturer in risk
management at Cranfield University, Milton
Neil Turner, PhD, is a senior lecturer at
Cranfield University School of Management’s
International Centre for Programme
n Empower project team members to create
options—to deviate from established rules if
the situation warrants it and to create novel
n Widen team members’ response repository to
deal with uncertainty. Do this by broadening
their skills and capabilities to handle emergent
n Challenge team members’ reliance on what they
know and foster a sense of discomfort as a pre-
requisite to be vigilant about uncertainty.
n Provide team members with the necessary
resources to exercise their solutions.
n Establish a culture that is not driven by compli-
ance but by support for creativity.
n Provide an abundance of expertise that team
members can readily rely on to inform their
Before we give in to the temptation of establishing an autopilot mentality in our projects,
let’s pause and think about what challenges we
expect to encounter. A rule-based approach may
well be suitable, and the benefits of this are well-established. If we anticipate uncertainty, though,
fostering the creativity of the human mind can
only help. PM
HOW TO ENCOURAGE MINDFULNESS
This empowered, exploratory style may not
be the fastest, however. It takes time and is
less automated, although it may bypass existing bureaucratic controls. “Tightly coupled”
projects—in which tasks are dependent on
each other and a problem in one area creates
a snowball effect that drives the project to crisis—should not necessarily be approached with a
pure mindfulness approach.
But for loosely coupled projects where tasks
are more independent of each other, managers
have some amount of breathing room to address
issues as they arise. They can reflect on what
is happening in order to create novelty in their
answers to counter the uncertainty. And many
projects may fall between tightly and loosely
coupled, allowing middle ground between rule-based project management and mindfulness-based project management.
Here are some ways organizations and project
managers can encourage mindfulness:
Mindfulness involves questioning before
taking action, resisting the temptation to
assume we have control, not relying on
predefined action and improvising.
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