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