Friday, May 5, 2017

The shape of the S-curve in resource utilization of project management is well established for its persistence. Adrian Bejan (a mechanical engineering professor at Duke University), has extended the applicability of S-curve as a logistic function to the spread of ideas, technology etc. I am thinking that because of its wide utility, this function and the shape it represents, can also show the evolving boundary of the dynamic of teaming process in a project. PM BOK, does not list S-curve as a subject index or as a key word though it references the term on p. 213-214, in its treatment of cost management plan, as cost aggregation.

The mathematical idea of S-curve is credited to Pierre Verhulst (1804-1849) who was mainly interested in the study of growth of the population of Belgium, and based on later analyses, he was very close to the actual evolution of that population. Today, that function is typically referred to as logistic function (with sigmoid function being a special case).  


Thursday, April 20, 2017

David Perkins in his interesting book, Knowledge as Design, proposes a thesis that there is an operational directive in the structure of design thinking as design knowledge. Designs are all around us and come in all sorts of formats and appearances. We design our careers to get to our objectives whatever they are, we design our family or social lives, we make certain decisions given a set of knowledge, in order to obtain what we desire. Design is not limited to engineering disciplines. There is a design in mathematical proofs, the way we manage our relations, tidy up our bed, or devise a management plan. It takes thinking. Design as a projection is profound, it cuts through mental models, templates of world structures and means of verification. After Perkins, I want to say that knowledge as design also contains the its process, that is how knowledge (making breakfast, develop a software code, or plan a new tax code) also contains the time backdrop (temporal direction, time axis) of the unfolding of knowledge, knowledge implies its process. This is a most fascinating connection that is almost surely left for cybernetic thinkers, it is their assertion and not mine (Heinz von Foerster, and others).

In this sense, writing, like this posting, is showing a knowledge based structure while I spend a bit of time to show what it is, it takes time to make my point! That ‘taking of time’ is the process of the structure of knowledge in my mind that shows itself bit by bit. We take these for granted. An editing of s text, like double checking of a message, or a letter or report to someone, is quality control of the design in the structure of the writing. In this view, writing as design, as structured knowledge, presents a different perspective, this is what a job seeker tries to do by crafting a strong resume: I can do what I say as I wrote.

A management plan, like a project management plan, is a structural design directive for the way the entire body of a project tries to show itself for its fulfillment, how it will be conceived and realized. Project management is a very young discipline, and like all young and novel disciplines, they are not recognized, or taken seriously. It has taken us time to allow for many of the engineering or science disciplines to find their places. This time taking aspect of a discipline to find a proper foothold extends even to mathematics. I hear one of the founder of computer science could not get a tenure position at Cal, because that discipline did not fit into the established mathematics department! Of course, it seems easy to look back and assess the narrow thinking of others at that time. I think knowledge as design and design as process is a powerful thesis that can help many of our fragmented areas of activities become integrated. Project management is a form of design integration thinking. Ali

Sunday, April 16, 2017

In my read of (2003 edition) AI, Norvig-Russell, the authors say, bounded optimality offers the best hope for a strong AI theory. They define aspects of artificial intelligence as:

1.      Problem solving,
2.      Knowledge and reasoning,
3.      Planning
4.      Uncertain knowledge and reasoning,
5.      Learning,
6.      And communicating,

The above, are strongly aspects and agenda of project management practice. The field is new, and being elaborated of what is and is not, and its present reach, the strongly normative body of knowledge in PM BOK, 5th edition is an example of the vast area of the field. In my practice, with engineering and construction on certain performance contracts (EPCM mostly), I have seen management practice as either based on the procedures of the enterprise (we tell you how to do it), or progressive tribal knowledge (project have their own ideas of how the practice should look like, right or wrong), I’d see many opportunities for refinement, if these two cultures could check themselves against PM BOK, the latter has its own limitation, since it is still growing, it is a consensus model, a different name for tribal knowledge. Now, would a field like mathematics (with its strong tribalism as much as it is effective specify parts of nature), contribute to the PM BOK? I hope there will be cross pollination among the fields, I guess there are. I loved noticing the above authors’ hope for strong AI as bounded optimality, it is strongly reflective of what a project manager does or tries to do, irrespective of their domain, building a power plant, or launching a space telescope. Ali

Monday, December 5, 2016

I am reading this book after 72 years ago: I was reading the chapter of Erwin Schroedinger’s book, What is life?, where he assets that for mind, it is always now. Mind is one, he says, singulare tantum. If I say, his take on Mind and its independence from time is on a par with (what is attributed to) Emma Noether’s formulation of energy conservation, then it implies that mind is like that abstract quantity (in the words of Richard Feynman), 'energy', and time is simply (one of its infinite) symmetry: change mind in anyway respective to time, and you will end up finding the same mind! It is amazing to see such thinking from both Noether and Schroedinger, that in my view are meaningfully correlated. This is not me who is talking about mind, this is Erwin Schroedinger, his name is goes to the foundation of quantum mechanics.

Friday, November 4, 2016

The hidden mathematical object in the model of project management:

Project Management is a relatively new and young profession with an evolving body of knowledge. I have been involved with project management, mostly major projects, since 1995. The nexus of processes and phases in the development of these projects has preoccupied my mind for a long time. I used to see these meaningful relations as interesting patterns, then as modalities of systems engineering until I learned a little bit about the mathematical concepts in matrix algebra and eventually late Ron Atkin's ideas drove the subject home: the consensus model of the project management has an 'incidence structure'! This means there is a logical relationship with mathematical groundings between Processes  and Knowledge Areas of the PMI normative book. Alternatively (and with a bit of abstraction), there is a map between knowing well a subject area and performing equally well that area. Philosophically minded readers can see this as a direct hint a the mutually inclusive, self-referential incidence structure showing how spatial domain of the knowledge and its temporal process of fulfillment are linked.  

That would be fine to think of this practice in an alternate algebraic process but does it have any value and utility for the actual practice of this profession? I think it does with far ranging consequences. 


Thursday, August 4, 2016

100 years since Ferdinand Saussure's major work in structural basis of our language. While thinking through the link between algebraic geometry and theory of signs, I met the foundational views of late Joseph Goguen's Algebraic Semiosis. I am still reading through his work, but the proposal for those curious about the algebra rules of systems theory of signs, semiotic, is thrilling.
We need to think and act about our end products, labeled as useless, the junk!

256 years since our much talked about industrial revolution, the same period to date also is found out after the facts to be an extremely rapid rise of global pollution, at all scales through impacts of technology and tools unheard of in our record history. Reign in Global Pollution using the latest we have from management, technology and stored knowledge farms. How to do it? The simplest is to start from homes. Quantify aggregated streams of trash production. Identify paths of reuse. Estimate loss to production industry. Understand the long term guarantee for profit vs. accelerated unforeseen effects of pollution of water, air, soil, habitats and growth of cities, etc. The knowledge gained from projection of our best data, models, and measurements and predictions should be used to act as brakes or of the similar order of multi wedges to add awareness to a vast global system that relies on the resources: Nature and its inhabitants. Bring responsible-accountable AI bots into the products and programs to align with the growing intelligence manufactured and forecasted to emerge.  

This is my partial pitch to MIT Solve...

I will follow up by connecting the dots, and relate this proposal to our second law of thermodynamics, if we care about the work done over a closed loop of energy/heat exchange with at least one reservoir, morally, the waste burden on the prime source of all of our energies, food to fuel, our planet, has to be factored in. Do we care?