Continuous Improvement

6 Cognitive Biases to Root Out of the PMO

The more we talk about bias, the more we hopefully can start to identify it in ourselves. (Although I would not be surprised if thinking you are immune to bias as a result of seeking out bias is also a form of bias!) In a post for HotPMO!, John McIntyre identifies six biases to stand watch for in your PMO, in order to ensure the best decisions are being made:

  1. IKEA effect: This is the misperception of assigning something higher value because you had a hand in building the thing. It is so named because of the example that, if you build IKEA furniture, you will probably have a sense of pride about the thing when it is done. But that does not mean it is not suddenly cheap, #basic furniture.
  2. Sunk cost effect: Similar to the above, this is when you want to keep investing resources into something that is not working in the hopes of making it eventually work. In other words, you fool yourself into working with a money pit. Do not waste resources on a project that should be canceled.
  3. Confirmation bias: You already know what this is; it is when people seek out information that reinforces what they already believe. In the PMO, someone might for instance like a certain vendor tool. So he or she may seek out a report from that vendor that provides excellent justification why that vendor’s tool should be used. That in isolation is clearly not a good or formal tool assessment.
  4. In-group bias: Basically, you feel an inclination to agree with whatever is being spouted by your particular “group” (whatever that group might be), without fully engaging in critical thinking. This would be akin to offering unwavering support to a football coach who very clearly cheated to win a game.
  5. Negativity bias: Bad experiences stick with us louder than good experiences, and they can stain our perceptions. McIntyre gives the example that there was a project manager he avoided working with for years because they had worked on a project where that manager had done a terrible job. However, that manager went on to improve dramatically, and it took too long for McIntyre to concede and realize that this manager had actually become a “superstar.”
  6. Status-quo bias: This is the belief that new ideas are not strong enough to be worth disrupting the status quo over. However, nothing is more dangerous in business than the status quo.

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