Outline of Little Theory of Work

While project management1 exhibits repeatable patterns, each collection of human beings is unique. This is why process consultation is a profession instead of just a library: the valuable bit is not the pages of process but assessing a group of people and their situation and knowing which page of which book will help today, and how to present it to them. So I doubt there can ever be a single unified theory of getting things done2. Physicists work toward the Big Theory of Everything, the Big TOE. The Project Management Institute produces the Project Management Body of Knowledge Guide, or PMBOK. Perhaps this document will be a Little Theory of Work.

In my career in project management and process consultation, I’ve learned the hard way which ideas tend to work better in which situations for which kinds of people. I’m trying to write down everything I’ve learned—mostly ideas borrowed from smart people, often credited—in the course of helping a few dozen teams get work done. How can we compensate for the universal cognitive bias to ignore our own cognitive biases? How can computers fill in gaps in our brains, and where are their limits? And since everybody’s going to die sooner or later3, what should you do with the next hour of your life? I call this effort What Next? Here’s an outline of what a unified theory of using cognitive tools to help people and groups do the right work well in order to live their values might comprise.

Thinking Tools

Knowledge-proof Ignorance

Meat brains vs computers

Management tools


Rules of Thumb? Best practices?

James Kozloski, who works as a computer neuroscientist at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Centre, says the brain is constantly looping signals through established pathways - pathways that can be thought of as city street maps for our minds. The brain repeatedly retraces its steps through these pathways, covering three different areas of functionality: sensory (what’s currently happening), behavioural (what we can do about it), and limbic (what it means to us).

Kozloski calls this closed-loop model the “Grand Loop”, and hypothesises that these repeated cycles are the reason the brain needs so much energy, even when we’re not actively solving maths puzzles or trying to juggle. Science Alert

10 replies that are always safe when you weren’t paying attention

10 process management tasks that are always appropriate



Best practices for remote