What is the Project Management “Paradigm Trap”?

The Paradigm Trap A “paradigm trap” is a situation in which people, teams or organisations can’t think outside a particular paradigm that they have been using.  This “trap” therefore actively prevents them finding alternative solutions to their problems.  It could also be called the “Paradigm Black Hole” in reference to how light is “trapped” by the gravitational force of the star at its centre. In the world of Project Management, the “paradigm” is the particular methodology that is used to orchestrate planning and execution,  e.g. plan-based methodologies based on PMBOK, or a derived internal equivalent.  Or the paradigm could be an Agile approach to software development, for example: Scrum. This situation is well understood across many domains of experience and professional practise: it is also known as the “law of the instrument” or “déformation professionnelle”. This situation is classically illustrated by Maslow’s quote: “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail” – Abraham H. Maslow (1962), Toward a Psychology of Being  If you are building a house, you won’t succeed by following the directions in the user manuals for your power drill, angle grinder and electric plane.  You need to follow a higher-order house design and a set of guidelines in how to approach building the house.  The house design is informed by human...

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