November 26, 2015

Project Management – What the Inductivist Turkey of Russel has taught us

The main character of this story is a turkey, yes a turkey! And the “author” is nothing less than the intellectual and logician Bertrand Russel. 
The “Inductivist Turkey” is an insightful story able to remind us how experience is important but not significative and how project management and, most of all, risk management, should not totally rely on it. 

The “Inductivist Turkey” of Bertrand Russel: how Project Management should consider but not rely on experience and, day by day, make new assumptions 

 Scientists and philosophers thought about Inductivism as a response from science where consequential and similar events are considered as enough elements to draw conclusions. 
When there is a consecutive happening of similar events, there seem to be a simple law able to describe the phenomenon. 
We might say that induction is a form of reasoning that starts from the examination of a number of specific cases and leads to a universal conclusion. 

We, as human beings, tend to think at things as related and we make a consequential relationship between them. If something happens today, tomorrow and the next day again we unconsciously think that the same thing will happen repeatedly. This phenomenon goes under the name of Inductivism, and it has been firstly theorized by Francis Bacon in 1620 and it became discussed later, with Bertrand Russel’s theories and thoughts; the one regarding the Inductivist Turkey. 

This story became extremely popular, thanks to the Carl Popper’s re-formula. 
 

The “Inductivist Turkey” and Project Management: how risky is to rely on “taken for granted” situations 

The story tells that on a farm there was a turkey that every morning patiently waited to be fed by the farmer at 9 a.m. 
Every morning the turkey hah the same routine: he woke up and waited for his food to be hand-in. 
Sunny days, rainy days, on Mondays, Wednesdays and even Sundays: he knew for sure that the farmer would go and fed him.  
We might say that he has an inductivist conscience concluding that every day, at 9 am he would be fed. 
The described routine went on and on until one day, for being precise during Thanksgiving Day, when the farmer opened the paddock and, instead of feeding him, he pulled his neck to make a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. 

In our everyday life, however, we constantly rely on inductions since they easily provide us predictions about the outcomes of our actions. With no inductions, our world would be chaotic as we would have no reason to believe that the future is similar to the past and this would raise many doubts. 
In a project life cycle, decision makers start from a present situation and make assumptions; this also relying on the past and previous experiences. Indeed, inductivism is a logical way of thinking but it manifests risks since it does not concern any outbreak or changes. 

How to avoid drawing conclusions and, instead, keep an eye on what is going on 

Once the philosopher Karl Popper read the Inductivist turkey’s story, he immediately argued that the truth of universal statements it is not logically justified through the truth of single propositions, as many these are: any conclusions obtained in this way can always be false. 

So what is the Popper’s proposal? His idea is that, once admitted there are no inductive procedures that make it possible to establish the truth of hypotheses and theories, the pretense of being able to attribute to scientific claims a truth should be dropped. 

Science is not empirically verifiable. 

In fact, no matter how great the number of singular statements at our disposal is, this cannot verify universal statements, while just one singular statement can falsify. 

So, what decision makers and managers do when we talk about project management risks and how to avoid them? 

The story of the Inductivist Turkey teaches us that we cannot totally rely on similar events or on a particular business case because in project management just even a single difference can change the course of a project life cycle and its related goals and objectives. 

 Despite these difficulties, it is important for project planning to keep constant track and monitor every single step to do not just assume universal statements or draw conclusions but, instead, have an on-time idea of what it is changing or going in another direction. 

 Timeneye, the Project Management Software that will help you monitor your project life while avoiding making assumptions 

To achieve their goals and objectives, managers need to monitor the project life cycle at every single step to verify if something is interfering with it. 

Many project management tools also include one of the most key features when we talk about project management methodologies: time tracking. 

On Timeneye, every minute tracked will be assigned to a project, phase and client. Users can track time just clicking on a single button and, also, Timeneye offers in-depth reporting and monitoring tools in order to find where the time sinks. These features are essentials for decision makers who need to keep an eye on the project life cycle and want to avoid bitter surprises realizing too late that they invested time not in primary activities and tasks. 

Managers can also monitor the work by receiving a weekly email recap on what the team has done, and also see what are the latest tasks a user has been working on. 

The “Inductivist Turkey” taught us that project management methodologies does not allow us to rest on our laurels but, instead, we need to constantly monitor the project scape and keep an eye on the costs
Timeneye is aware of that, and it provides to its users a User Cost Calculator that allows them to monitor the profitability of the project at every single phase of it

If you want to avoid to make assumptions and check every single step of your project life cycle that a look at our Project Manager Software and sign up for a free 30-day Timeneye trial!  

Giovanni

Giovanni’s recently taken up a “caffeine free” way or life relying on green shakes in the morning (not sure he can still be considered Italian). Loves kayaking and always hopes on rainy days.

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