Author: George Pitagorsky

George Pitagorsky, PMP, integrates core disciplines and applies people centric systems and process thinking to achieve sustainable optimal performance. He is a coach, teacher and consultant. George authored The Zen Approach to Project Management, Managing Conflict and Managing Expectations and IIL’s PM Fundamentals™. He taught meditation at NY Insight Meditation Center for twenty-plus years and created the Conscious Living/Conscious Working and Wisdom in Relationships courses. Until recently, he worked as a CIO at the NYC Department of Education.

Training Your Mind to Stay Focused

Do you find yourself distracted, jumping from one thing to another, unable or unwilling to stay focused? 

This “monkey mind” phenomena occurs at meetings, when reading, watching a video, writing, or creating a product, when in conversation, when meditating to cultivate calm and clarity of mind, or when relaxing and trying to fall asleep.

When working a project, staying focused on the tasks that will satisfy objectives is a critical success factor.  Focused attention on a single task leads to greater performance effectiveness than popping from one thing to another.

The tendency to become distracted by monkey mind is not limited to project work.  It occurs in every aspect of life. 

One can exercise the mind to reduce the effects of “monkey mind” in meditation and in daily life, at work and at play.

Monkey Mind

“Monkey mind” is a mind that jumps from one thought to another, often unconsciously.  Thoughts are triggered by the experience of another thought, a feeling, sight, sound, smell, taste, or touch.  Something ‘interesting’ comes along and the mind is off and running.  It spins a web of thoughts, elaborates on the experience; repeats.  Some thoughts lead to actions, others to obsessing about some fantasy, worry, experience, or any concept and the feelings it brings up.


For example, here is a sequence that took place over half an hour, moving from observations to feelings, thoughts, activities, more observations, feelings, thoughts, etc.  

  1. Objective – verify when a new policy is to begin by emailing Amanda, the administrator
  2. Go to the email program to compose the email
  3. Notice a new batch of emails
  4. Feel annoyance about the number of junk emails
  5. Obsess a bit about the “junk” proliferation
  6. Review and delete junk emails
  7. Notice an interesting email with a quote from Ram Dass’ Words of Wisdom
  8. Contemplate the wisdom (this could set the mind off on a major diversion)
  9. Deciding to not take the diversion, copy the quote into Evernote for later reading
  10. Tag the note to a writing project
  11. Return to the email list
  12. Notice an email from one of the writing project team members
  13. Respond to that email
  14. Write a short email to the writing project team about the quote
  15. Return to the emails and finish reviewing
  16. Write and send the email to Amanda
  17. Create this list in Evernote
  18. Write notes about the list and the concept of monkey mind.
  19. Create this article.


This tendency for thoughts to proliferate and to become entangled in a web of feelings, mental commentary and actions is natural.  Everyone experiences it from time to time.  There are distractions and we are often easily distracted.

Sometimes a message comes in that starts another chain of events that may go on for hours moving from one thing to another.   Then there is the break for coffee or conversation with a co-worker.  Or, any number of other things.

The initial objective may be forgotten for days or until something comes up to trigger a need to get back to getting it done.   If the wisdom quote in step 7 triggered writing an article about the content of the quote, instead of putting the quote aside for later use, the diversion could have taken many hours.

The chain from the initial objective through its accomplishment took a half hour.   Without the distractions, writing and sending the email to Amanda would have taken less than five minutes, with no risk of getting lost in the chain.  Further, process quality and project management wisdom, including Critical Chain/Theory of Constraints, tells us that productivity and the quality of the outcome are enhanced by staying focused on one objective at a time – minimizing distractions and their effects.

Reduce Distractions

To minimize distractions and their effects, you have two challenges, 1) reduce the number of distractions and 2) better manage the distractions that will not go away.   Yes, you can minimize the number and frequency of distractions, but you cannot eliminate them.

You can reduce the number and frequency of external distractions like pings and rings, by turning off notifications and devices (if you dare take the risk of missing something really important).  Treat your solo work sessions as if they were meetings with an important stakeholder.  Do not allow interruptions for the length of your work session.

Unless you are a “surgeon” who must respond to emergency calls to action, you can be “off the grid” for an hour or so without fear of the world ending unless you take the call or respond to the text immediately.  If you do have emergency response responsibilities or high priority callers, set up your devices to filter out everything or everyone else.

 When it comes to internal distractions – thoughts and feelings – reducing the distracting events is not so easy.  It is hard to stop the mind from thinking or stop yourself from feeling angry, sad, frustrated, when triggered.

Train the Monkey

The second challenge is to better manage distractions.  It begins by seeing the monkey mind for what it is and to train it to think and decide before jumping.  And, to do that in a way that enables the kind of adaptive flow that promotes creativity and ease of being.

When you train the monkey, you can just go along in a stream of consciousness or pull back and stay on a chosen object – the task at hand or the content in your conversation or article.

The monkey is not some primate that lives in your mind.  It is the habit of grasping at the next “interesting” thing (thought feeling, sound, image, etc.) that comes up.  It might be something pleasant or painful.  The more interesting it is, the stickier it gets. Sticky thoughts attract and adhere to other related thoughts and feelings.  A momentum builds and the mind is off in a new direction. The more momentum, the stronger the new chain.  The stronger the chain the more difficult it is to break it and get back to the chosen object of your attention or the chain of thought that you were on before the distraction.

To break the habit, apply the effort required to cultivate mindfulness and concentration. That effort begins with the intention to be more in control of where your mind goes and what you do with it.  Then you find a meditation discipline to use to exercise the part of your mind that decides what to do.  You use formal and informal meditation techniques to confront and quiet the monkey mind.  You increase your mindful awareness so that you can recognize distractions as they occur and get back to your chosen object before the distraction takes hold. 

What are the techniques? 
Check out the videos at

How long does it take to train the monkey?
As consultants and project managers say, “It depends.” The factors are strength of your intention, the effort you put in, the monkey’s willfulness and strength. With practice you can see some results in a few weeks, but don’t be impatient, taming the mind, like keeping your body in shape, is a process.

How much time and effort do I have to spend?
Not as much as you may think. It can be anywhere from five to twenty minutes of formal practice and intentional attention during the day, integrated into the daily routine so no extra dedicated time is needed.

You may want to checkout my past PM Times article, How to Mindfully Manage Emotions at It contains an instruction for a formal mindfulness practice.

The Paradox of Patience, Planning and Expectations

If your goal is optimal performance, cultivate the mindful awareness that enables clarity and responsiveness. Accept and work with paradoxes to embrace both-and thinking.

A well-respected mindfulness meditation master, advised that “A mind which thinks, expects, and plans, blocks off wisdom.” Following this advice would leave most of our projects at sea without a rudder. That is the problem with a great deal of the mindfulness teachings that have become common in the project management and general business communities – over simplification. The wise embrace both-and thinking.

The full quote is:
“Notice every time the mind is eager for
results and remind yourself of the right attitude.
You need to practice patience.
Only when the mind is simple, can wisdom develop.
A mind which thinks, expects, and plans, blocks off wisdom.” Tejaniya


Mindfulness is the ability to objectively observe everything occurring within and externally. It is beneficial, based on many studies and personal experience. Mindfulness techniques – formal and informal meditation methods – increase mindfulness and concentration. Mindfulness enables responsiveness as opposed to reactivity. Concentration brings calm, relieves stress and enables focus in the face of distractions. Together with effort mindfulness and concentration promote wisdom.

But how many project managers will sign up for simple mindedness? How many organizations will hire simple minded project managers who are not eager for results? Not many.

The Wisdom of Paradox – Eager and Patient

Yet, there is wisdom in the master’s advice. Like all quotes it is taken out of context. No meaningful statement about the nature of mind and mindfulness is absolutely true. There is paradox – events or ideas that are unlikely to coexist. Paradox is “seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true:” Oxford Dictionaries.

Investigating more deeply, we can know that to be aware of the eagerness for results and to have patience is good advice. Over eagerness in projects leads to rushing to complete, by-passing risk management, testing, and other parts of planning and controlling the project. The over eager stakeholder is more likely to make mistakes and set unreasonable expectations. The eager stakeholder is motivated to achieve.

Right Attitude – Patience

The “right attitude,” is to be both eager and patient. Patience is a tough one, particularly when faced with high ranking stakeholders who are eager for results. Patience is “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset:” Oxford Dictionaries

Patience requires a stepping back to mindfully observe the uncomfortable feelings that get in the way of consciously taking stock of the situation, planning, communicating, and establishing the most effective foundation for performance. Alan Lokos, in his book “Patience:The Art of Peaceful Living” makes the point that patience is not passivity. Patience is taking control of thinking, speech, and action so that what you say and do makes good sense and gets the results that you want. Patience is an ingredient for effective project management and performance.

Practicing patience requires effort. It requires the ability to notice and be able to accept the urge to dismiss the annoying functional manager or team member who is ‘obstructing’ progress. Noticing and accepting are part of the practice of mindfulness. When I teach meditation practices, I often recommend “sitting with an itch,” patiently waiting for the itch to change or disappear on its own rather than scratching it. Try it the next time you have an annoying itch. It builds the patience “muscle.”


Who Wants a Simple Mind?

Now lets turn our attention to “Only when the mind is simple, can wisdom develop.”

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Albert Einstein

To have a simple mind does not mean to be simple minded. A simple mind, in the context of mindful awareness, is a calm mind that sees things objectively, as they are. There is elegance in simplicity. The simple mind can integrate the sophisticated, complex skills and thoughts needed to manage and perform complex tasks in a complex, changing environment. The simple mind is free of the unnecessary noise of biases, confusion, and obsessive thinking.

Bertrand Russell said, “Every man, wherever he goes, is encompassed by a cloud of comforting convictions, which move with him like flies on a summer day.” The simple mind, the mind that is mindfully aware, sits behind it all, open-minded, free of the comforting convictions. It observes objectively. The simple mind is like the eye of the storm – calm and clear while the storm rages. The flies are still there but they no longer get in the way of clear, focused thinking. In fact, mindful awareness promotes greater clarity and focus.

We can have a simple mind and simultaneously achieve objectives by applying our intelligence, skills and knowledge.

Planning, Expectations and Wisdom

To say that “A mind which thinks, expects, and plans, blocks off wisdom.” is overly simplistic. It is misleading. It is the kind of thing that can drive people, particularly project managers, away from the practice of mindfulness and the benefits it brings. The meaning is clarified by saying that a mind that is distracted by thinking, that unrealistically expects, and over-plans blocks off wisdom.

Wisdom is seeing things as they are and having wise intention. Wisdom can be blocked by Russell’s “flies.”

In Buddhist thought, things are impermanent, imperfect and the result of a continuous process of causes and effects. Wise intention is to give up the causes of suffering, cultivate good will, do no harm, and to ethically achieve objectives to benefit stakeholders.

Expectations are normal. Planning is necessary if you want to successfully achieve project goals and satisfy stakeholder expectations. However, having irrational, unrealistic expectations leads to disappointment and suffering. Constantly changing the plan moment to moment, gets in the way of being in the moment and performing optimally.

The Bottom-line

In the spirit of both-and thinking, we can say that we can both be patient and take skillful action. We can keep the mind simple and apply complex skills and knowledge to complex problems. And we can expect and plan and be in the moment, performing optimally, while allowing wisdom to develop.

Mindful awareness is the foundation for optimal performance. Cultivate it by practicing to focus the mind and open it to the full range of internal and external experience. Practice both-and thinking.

Vision and Systems View to Improve Performance

Project performance is influenced by systemic issues.

Systemic issues influence all or a substantial part of a system. They are generally long lasting and have significant impacts. They are like earth tremors causing tidal waves and like a bowling ball effecting the pins.

There is controversy about the need for systemic change. It is currently most prevalent in the realm of policing and race relations but has great importance in project and organizational management.

The controversy is about two things – 1) If and how much change is required and 2) whether any system exists to be changed. As to the first, it depends. As to the second, a systems view is a solid foundation for understanding the world.


Vision is linked to systemic change. It is the picture of how things can be. There are many possible visions – how I want things to be, how things may be, how I don’t want things to be. Also, there is the absence of a coherent vision – a blank space within which everything will unfold without a sense of what that would be like.

The vision is of systems, their behavior, how they relate to one another and to the active people, places, things, and processes that bring them alive.

Systems View

Our organizations, communities, economies, projects, operations, families, selves, bodies, are all intersecting systems. They exist within an overriding system – an ecosystem. All systems are in continuous change. The descriptions and boundaries of systems approximate the nature of the environment.

Recognizing the interplay among the systems’ parts (including oneself), one is better able to influence change and promote effective performance and quality of life. Assessing the system objectively, while one is part of it, promotes clarity.

Systemic Issues – An Example

There is great power to both appreciate and amplify parts of the system that work well, and address what is not working. Here is an example.

Imagine an organization that regularly has project performance issues. Projects are rarely done on time, there are cost overruns, project performers are burning out, clients are dissatisfied with product quality, there is discord among stakeholder groups.

The system in this case is the project, program and portfolio management (PPM) environment.

Within it there are stakeholders – the project, program and portfolio managers, sponsors, clients, functional managers, performers, etc. There are PPM tools and processes, for project selection and prioritization, planning, performance, etc.



Analyzing performance across multiple projects over time, the performance improvement team discovered that poor project performance is caused partially by over commitment made in the selection and prioritization process. Executives enable and even promote a selection process based on political haggling between heads of different divisions. Estimates are allowed to be overly optimistic or pessimistic to sway decisions.

The performance analysts discovered that errors and omissions are regular causes of project slippage and failure. Performers are overworked and lack the skills to perform their jobs. A few are lazy, relationship-challenged, and get in the way. Client representatives charged with defining requirements are not getting the feedback and cooperation they need and lack business analysis skills.

There are systemic issues. For example, the impact of the prioritization and selection process. Ignoring them or thinking that changes at the project level will resolve performance issues misses the mark and perpetuates the problems.

Taking Action

Now comes the fun part – convincing the people who identify with the parts of the system requiring change that their systems cause poor project performance. It is one thing to identify systemic causes; a whole other thing to accept them as real and commit to change.

Will the people who identify with their systems, roles, and departments, be motivated enough by the care they have for the overall system – the organization – to take a hard look at their performance and to change? Are they motivated by the desire to continuously improve by candidly and objectively analyzing past performance? Do they disbelieve that their actions effect other parts of the system? Do they believe that admitting fault is a sign of weakness or a sign of strength? Do they believe that systemic changes are too hard to make?

This is where vision comes in. Change comes easier if on the highest levels of the organization there is a clearly stated vision. Particularly one that includes continuously improving performance based on candid, accurate and constructive assessment of past performance and a sense of what level of performance can be practically achieved. On lower levels the visions result in performance measures, relationships, tools and methods, work space, and transition paths and expectations.

Making Systemic Change

Making systemic change begins with the recognition that there is a system and that it is a complex of interacting subsystems (for example, departments and processes).

A critical factor is sustained executive level sponsorship. Without this, the ability to make substantial change is limited to the good will and rationality of the people in charge of the parts of the system that require change.

Then, the rest is a project or program.

What can you Do?

It is important to recognize that the past is not subject to change, but we can learn from it. Overcome the tendency to want to hide the ugly part of past performance. Make sure stakeholders understand that talking about the errors is not an attack. Make sure everyone understands the interconnectedness of the parts of the system.

Depending on your position in your “system” you can influence the process by establishing and beginning to actualize your vision, while considering all stakeholders’ places in the broader system. Then communicate, collaborate, and take appropriate action within your scope of control and influence.

In the last resort, if you realize that your organization will not change in your lifetime, then you can accept things as they are and either stay or find a new organization.

Effective leaders recognize the power of a systems view and a realistic vision to enable performance improvement through systemic change, when it is needed.

Performance Improvement Needs Candid Assessment

To improve future performance, it is necessary to candidly assess past performance.  That means overcoming resistance to criticism and learning to give it in a constructive way.

The Case Of The Lost Review

Once I was called in to facilitate a performance improvement process at a successful high-tech company.  

When looking for artifacts from past projects, I discovered that the group held a post project review for a large recent project but that there were neither notes nor report.  My contact told me that the event had been video recorded but that the recording was “lost.”

Upon further exploration I discovered that the review process was so divisive and inconclusive that management decided to just move on and focus on the future.   

When we planned the kick-off event for the improvement program, we decided to use the controversial project as a case in point. 


The goal for the improvement program was sustainable optimal performance based on establishing a continuously improving learning culture.  

To achieve the goal, we would address the foundation for successful process improvement:

  • open-minded objectivity
  • responsive vs. reactive behavior
  • effective communication
  • mindful awareness.

From that foundation, we would then explore how to approach performance improvement using techniques and concepts like goal setting, cause and effect analysis, performance measurement and review, conflict management and decision making, managing change, and methodology. 

Overcoming Obstacles

A crucial step in creating a continuously improving culture is the recognition and overcoming of obstacles, particularly the attitudes and habits that get in the way of candid performance assessment.

To achieve continuous improvement, it stakeholders must explore their own mental models, beliefs and biases.  Peter Senge advises us to turn “the mirror inward, learning to unearth our internal pictures of the world, to bring them to the surface and hold them rigorously to scrutiny.  to “… carry on ‘learningful’ conversations that balance inquiry and advocacy, where people expose their own thinking effectively and make that thinking open to the influence of others.”(Senge, P. (1994) The Fifth Discipline, p 9)

Too many improvement programs focus in on concrete techniques like measurement and review without addressing the more systemic interpersonal issues that are at the heart of the collaboration that fuels the program.  


Performance Assessment

When we look at performance assessment, we recognize that it serves all stakeholders and the organization as a whole.  The stakeholders are performers, managers, executives, clients, and anyone else effected by the performance results.  

While many of the stakeholders will not be present at a specific review session, it is important to consider their input and perspective.  Keep in mind the intention to serve the stakeholders with quality performance by reflecting on past performance, learning from it, and applying the lessons learned.  

Assessment is important and necessary.  The challenge is to find the right balance between objectivity and subjectivity in assessing capability to perform and then to improve future performance.  

Objectivity begins with demonstrated performance, though we must recognize that there are always subjective perspectives at work.  One person’s sense of what is or isn’t effective performance can be quite different from another’s.  

To minimize the subjectivity there is need for clear mutually agreed upon criteria.  What are the attributes of effective performance and what are each attribute’s weights?  For example, when it comes to an individual, is truthfulness and the ability to own up to and learn from mistakes an important attribute?  Is it more or less important than technical skill?  

When assessing a team’s performance on a project, what are the critical measures of effective performance?   Are they limited to timeliness and budget compliance or do they include criteria like the satisfaction of stakeholders about relationships and the usefulness of the results over time?  How do the criteria enable an assessment of the probability of performing a similar or more complex assignment in the future?

Coming up with the criteria is a process that goes well beyond adopting an off the shelf model, though models and the tools that go along with them are useful starting points.  it is important to involve key stakeholders, particularly the people whose work will be assessed, in the decision process.  

The process of developing or fine tuning the assessment criteria is a means for gaining support, exposing biases, and for learning about assessment and its role in improvement.  Without the buy-in of the performers and their understanding of the dynamics at work in assessment, effective reviews are less likely.


While concrete measurement and criteria are desirable, addressing the dynamics at work is critical.  These dynamics have two dimensions – organizational and personal.

On the organizational side, is there more than lip service to values like objectivity and confronting dysfunction while not punishing those who have performed poorly?  What is the organization’s tolerance for slow learners and marginal performers?  How does management at all levels act?  is it in sync with or at odds with stated values?  

An organization that has the goal of establishing a continuously improving learning culture, must avoid punitive behavior and be willing to confront performance dysfunction in the face of internal politics.  How does one improve performance and fairly and effectively manage the incompetent and those who do not fit in with the organization’s culture?

The personal dynamics center on the degree to which people seek to avoid critical performance evaluation, where performance includes decision making and the quality of relationships.  How does one adequately assess competence/capability when giving and receiving negative feedback is avoided by many for fear of repercussions? 

Address the often deeply embedded resistance to criticism.  This resistance is not easily overcome.  It takes more than policy statements, procedures and guidelines to cut through it.

It takes 

  • Commitment and example form the highest levels of the organization
  • Mindfulness and emotional intelligence to be aware of and not driven by emotions like fear of punishment and anger
  • Valuing and opening to criticism from others – making one’s thinking open to input from others; recognizing that through criticism there can be improvement

Being able to give criticism honestly and respectfully.

Making Effective Decisions: What is the Truth and How Important is it?

Effective decisions are central to project success.

Making effective decisions relies on the ability to manage conflicts among the decision makers and to weave together objective facts (truth) with opinions, analysis, risk assessment, and feelings.

There is nothing new about lying, manipulating the truth, and/or using rhetoric to influence decisions while ignoring objectivity and analysis. There is also nothing new about people buying into a “truth” because it reflects what they want the truth to be.

Many people seeking profits, safety, certainty and security will get behind anyone who promises to deliver these, even when they know deep down that they are being lied to. For these, truth is confused with wishful thinking rather than an objective assessment of facts and other factors.

Case Example

While there are many newsworthy examples of blatant lies and hiding or misrepresenting facts, we will consider the ones that directly impact projects. Let’s look at an example.

In a process improvement project, the project’s costs and risks were significantly under stated. Senior management was provided with a highly detailed project description with functional specifications and plans, along with a simplified executive overview including high-level estimates. The executives wanted the project to succeed and were quick to sign off – probably without reading the detailed document and relying on the word of the project’s proponents.

The project’s proponents may not have purposely lied. They may have been influenced by their desire to make long needed process changes and by unconscious optimism or other biases. The project team and some functional managers grumbled, but no one paid attention to them. Risk analysis was getting in the way of approval, so risks were downplayed. Then, later during the project, problems, lateness, and overspending management softened the truth to spare key stakeholders from stress.

The result was a late and over budget project that delivered positive results that more than paid for the overrun. The project could have just as easily been a failure.

Why Truth

So, we have misrepresentation and, maybe, even straight-up lying; sometimes purposefully to sway decisions, sometimes out of fear of telling the truth, sometimes because the project control process is broken with inaccurate or inadequate data and reporting.

In our process improvement scenario, even though the project was late and over budget, the benefits outweighed the costs. One could argue that the misrepresentation of estimated costs and risks was justifiable – the ends justified the means. Project proponents thought “the bureaucrats and bean counters would never have authorized this needed project. We had to build an case they couldn’t turn down.”

The absence of truth telling is destructive, even when things turn out well. In the long term the organization and its inhabitants suffer. The absence of truth promotes subjective decision making based on special interests, bias, and power.

Executives are both robbed of their prerogative to make well informed decisions and cannot be held accountable for poor decisions. Performance is unlikely to be accurately measured and therefore less able to be improved. Because of schedule overruns other efforts’ schedules are impacted. Budget overruns can lead to other projects being cancelled for lack of funds. People are unnecessarily stressed and spend much time and energy covering things up. Paranoia, distrust, confusion, conflicts of interest, and increased uncertainty become characteristics of the culture.

Performance Improvement

Truth is the foundation for performance improvement and trust. Relying on truth, as supported by facts, data and objective analysis, leads to a self-improving culture.

Science relies on truth and scientists rely on peer review to keep one another honest. When we take a scientific approach to performance management, we get a self-correcting system. The truth comes out (if people are interested enough to check). When data indicates that performance is not in-sync with the plans and promises that set things in motion, causes of short-falls can be identified and addressed. Then, the process can be improved.


How To Know What is True

The dictionary says “truth is the property of being in accord with reality.” We will stay away from philosophical and religious Truths like the way the universe was created or whether people have free will. Project managers are interested in truths that effect performance on a practical level and that they can verify as being in accord with reality through objective analysis based on data.

In some cases, checking the facts and realizing that alternative facts are lies, will uncover the truth. For example, the financial cost of a project can be objectively determined through proper accounting, as can number of people attending an event, dying from a disease, making an error, or using a product.

However, it is not always that easy. The numbers may not be available. Estimates are predictions based on assumptions or beliefs. They are subject to uncertainty. Decisions about methodologies are important but easily subject to unfounded assumptions and beliefs. For example

  • Is it true that an agile approach to project management is better than a waterfall approach? It might be. But is it always better? Probably not.
  • Is it true that the decision-making executives in our example above would not have decided to go ahead with the project unless they were duped? Maybe, but we’ll never know.
  • Were the project’s proponents justified in influencing the decision by hiding risks and underestimating?

To know the truth look at the evidence, assess the data, the facts – and make sure they are accurate. Distinguish between facts, opinions, assumptions, and beliefs. And, take multiple perspectives.

Multiple Perspectives

We cannot rely solely on the facts to make decisions. Meaningful decisions rely on a combination of factors. The facts are a foundation but there is a need to take multiple perspectives to build the case for an effective decision. Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats model is a methodology for making well informed decisions and avoiding bias. It recommends taking six perspectives:

  • Facts – data, evidence, probabilities,
  • Positivity – optimism. value, benefit
  • Judgement – criticism, risks
  • Feelings – hunches, intuition, emotions
  • Creativity – ideas, alternatives, possibilities, thinking outside of the box
  • Process – managing the thinking and decision-making process, analysis and syntheisis

Taking these multiple perspectives is more likely to lead to an effective decision, particularly, when multiple competent players are collaborating in an open and well managed process in which there is clarity about fact, opinion, bias, truth and lie. One can “speak one’s truth” while acknowledging that it may be an opinion and/or influenced by biases.

Project success is achieved because hundreds of effective decisions are made. The more those decisions are based on a realistic, fact based analysis, the better.