Psychology and project management: a close relationship

Fernando Judzon
Posted by Fernando Judzon on Sep 20, 2021 10:03:44 AM

Project managers are the keystone of software development companies. They are the ones in charge of leading teams and making sure projects are carried out to the highest standards. When training them, we often focus on organizational skills, budget management, and project organization, but we tend to forget the human and psychological side to their job. Are psychology and project management connected? How can some psychology principles help managers lead their teams to success?


Let’s think today about the different types of learning. Whenever a new team is formed and assigned a specific task or set of tasks, every member will have their own way of learning and absorbing the information provided to them. If the project manager is able to identify the learning style of each member, they will be able to simplify the initial stages of the process and make every team member comfortable. 


David Kolb, renowned psychology and educational theorist, designed a learning model that establishes two variables for learning. The first one has to do with processes and how we approach new tasks: on one endpoint we have “active experimentation”, while on the other we can find “reflective observation”. The second variable has to do with what we think of new tasks and how we feel when we carry them out. The two endpoints are “concrete experience” and “abstract conceptualization”. The graphic below shows this more clearly:

Thus, we can divide people’s learning styles into four categories. The first one is the diverger or discoverer: they like to look at things from several different perspectives, taking time to watch before putting things into practice. The second is the assimilator or the thinker. These type of learners like a logical approach to learning, and prefer working with theory rather than testing things with a group. The third type of learner is called a converger or the decision-maker. These people love practical solutions and are more interested in solving problems than in social relationships. The last type is the accommodators or the doers. People with this style of learning prefer to test things in practice, focusing on active experimentation and not so much on the theory.


Knowing and being able to identify the learning style of each team member is as important as being a good budget manager. On several occasions, misunderstandings and delays can be avoided when managers are clever in the way they deal with their group, attending to the specific needs and personalities of each member, adapting their expectations and explanations to the people they are working with, especially in the initial stages of the projects, when people are getting to know one another and the tasks they will be working with. 


As odd as it may sound, the relationship between psychology and project management is a very close one. Companies that do not acknowledge this fact, tend to stay behind in time, using old methodologies and losing valuable development opportunities. If you have not considered this approach in your company, maybe it’s time to give it a try, and see the results for yourself! 

Topics: Project Management

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