Pavlovian Projectmanagement

Gerard Grafhorst 1

Last week we had a project scoping day: in a room, client and AMIS, setting the boundaries of the project. Nothing unusual you would say. It is healthy to determine the scope of your project and ensure a mutual understanding of that scope and the underlying business goals it supports. The thing is: this project scoping day was way after the system had been delivered. In fact: our client was testing. And well…then there is a lot of potential for disaster.

During the day the client project manager used the term “Pavlov reaction”. As you probably know Pavlov is best known for his experiments showing reflex responses with dogs: dogs drool in anticipation of food, sounding a bell when presenting food links the bell to the food (when repeated often enough). In the end the dog drools when a bell is sounded even when there is no food (

Humans have similar Pavlov reactions. In projects it is no different. When I hear the project team discuss new features my internal link is “Request for Change”. When the client sees a Request for Change his first reaction is “We’ll see about that”. So…entering into a project scoping day with client and supplier project teams might give Pavlov a field day and turn the project into a battlefield.

By suppressing our Pavlov reactions we were able to analyze requirements and limitations, go back to the basic assumptions of the project and develop a solution we both agreed to. In fact we discovered that our mutual understanding and trust had evolved to a basis for project success any scope document would have had a hard time beating!

Try to find your Pavlov reaction today.

You have one, hell, you’ve got ten!

I do.

One thought on “Pavlovian Projectmanagement

  1. As long as you don’t drool on me in case we will ever do a project together… 🙂

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