Paradigms of work management: conversations with the philosophers

paradigms of work management
Paradigms of work management. Source:

I have finally made it, today I come to tell you about a conversation I was able to have yesterday (with the social distance measures recommended during these times) with two people I have admired since I heard about them in my high school years. They are René Descartes and David Hume.

René will surely be remembered for his phrase “Je pense, donc je suis” (translated as “cogito ergo sum” in Latin, or “I think, therefore I am” in English), which served as the basis for rationalism. And David, on the other hand, is recognized as one of the most influential persons of empiricism. 

And it was precisely on these two philosophical theories, and their influence on the paradigms of work management, what yesterday’s conversation was about, which, without further ado, I share with you:

Raúl: So, René, in broad outline… What does rationalism stand for?

R. Descartes: Rationalism emphasizes the role of reason as a means for the acquisition of knowledge, so we defend the importance of mental processes as opposed to experience. Simply put, we could say that knowledge acquired through thought always precedes actions.

Raúl: And in which paradigm of work management do you think this philosophy fits?

R. Descartes: Clearly with the predictive paradigm, also known as “Plan Driven”. 

Let me explain it through an example. Historically,  the life cycle model known as Waterfall has been widely used in the predictive paradigm, right? 

Pay attention to the first phases of this model: analysis of the problem and its context, and conceptual design of the technical solution. The most important thing here is thinking, as it should be. It is not until the development phase starts that the product can begin to exist.

Raúl: So this is something like “Je pense, donc le produit est” (“I think, then the product exists”)….

R. Descartes: Hahaha, yes, you could say something like that.

Raúl: And in your opinion, what would be the key(s) that would make this approach to work management “bulletproof”?

R. Descartes: Without a doubt, the necessary and sufficient conditions would be that

1)the needs were 100% known from the beginning,

2)these needs were immutable over time.

Raúl: But David, I think this is radically opposed to your proposal of empiricism, isn’t it?

D. Hume: Indeed, as you well know, empiricism defends the role of experience obtained through actions as a means to generate knowledge. That is to say, the actions we perform make the senses capture our context, and that generates sensations that end up becoming knowledge.

Raúl: And is there any work management paradigm that fits with your philosophy?

D. Hume: Of course, the adaptive paradigm, where we would include what you know today as Agile.

Raúl: And does Waterfall, of which Descartes spoke, fit with this paradigm?”bulletproof”?

D. Hume: Well, no, as Descartes explained before, this life cycle model brings us closer to rationalism.

In our case we should use the Iterative and Incremental life cycle model: first we would take an action to develop a small increment of the product, and we would show it to our stakeholders (the customer, or key users) to obtain, in the form of feedback, knowledge

And so on and so forth, perfecting the product at each step and managing to provide more and more value.

D. Hume: In this case it is all about what are known as the pillars of empiricism:

1) Transparency, meaning that the context that affects or is affected by the work to be developed is susceptible to scrutiny;

2) Inspection, referring to the concrete actions that make it possible to detect variations in the context, as well as to obtain feedback from the key actors on the work carried out; and

3) Adaptation, the ability to modify the objective, product, schedules, etc. Based on what is learned after performing inspection, iteration after iteration.

Raúl: Impressive and very clear. 

Thank you both profoundly for shedding so much light on the relationship between your philosophical theories, the two work management paradigms, their usual life cycles and the keys that would ensure their success!

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Paradigms of work management: conversations with the philosophers

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