Volume 10, Issue 2, 2011
Foundations and Processes
Katri Targama, Patrick Rang
Exploring Schumacher and Popper
a Quest for the Philosophical Foundations of Project Cycle Management
In this article we (a) interlink the philosophical ideas of Ernst Schumacher and Karl Popper within the framework of planning and management, (b) describe project management cases implemented using the principles of project cycle management (PCM) and (c) study whether the success or failure can be attributed to following these concepts.
We consider two basic concepts for perceiving the world surrounding us: the concept of organisation and that of self-organisation. The former emphasises the predictability of the future, where the results of each activity are predetermined and can always be achieved through thorough analytical planning. The latter sees the world as a generic whole where numerous interactions take place simultaneously, leaving the future unknown. As it has been shown, for example, by Schumacher, Hayek and Popper, the real world is uncertain and orders of great complexity appear spontaneously in a self-organised manner.
Mankind has thus to cope with the self-organising world and to plan and manage therein. PCM is one of the most widespread contemporary management techniques used for that purpose in both the private and public sectors. However, PCM lacks a proper theoretical basis as well as philosophical framework. We have proposed elsewhere that the concept of piecemeal social engineering elaborated by Popper in his The Poverty of Historicism could serve as a theoretical
basis, which can combine the organisational nature of planning and the self-organising and fuzzy world.
Thus the task is mentally to split the planning and implementation issue: to take the whole into pieces and rearrange them in a desired manner in the planning phase (concept of organisation; convergent problem solving). The actual implementation of the plan ought to be conducted following a stepwise approach, re-planning all through the process (concept of self-organisation; divergent problem solving). “The future cannot be forecast, but it can be explored.” Not all
human actions are unpredictable, but we cannot be sure what the results would be or judge the value of an action based on its inclusion in some plan.