Project Manager’s intuition: why it is important and how to improve it

pm intuition

Is a project manager’s intuition an innate gift or is it possible to improve it?

In recent years, the theme of intuition has been the key focus of many debates, research and articles, including in project management.

Intuition is increasingly recognized as a natural mental faculty, a key element in the creative process and a possible problem-solving factor.

Intuition is now recognized as an innate ability available to everyone, not a rare and accidental talent, but rather a natural ability that anyone can develop.

Intuition occurs and can be used in professional and personal life, can allow you to be productive and proactive in any situation and, above all, can improve the decision-making process.
the pm intuition

What do we mean by intuition?

Intuition is often represented by phrases such as “follow your heart” or “make a decision with your gut”. Doctors even talk about an “gut brain”. However, can a Project Manager rely on his gutsy to solve problems that could jeopardize an entire project?

What you need to know is that although the gut brain isn’t really thinking, it controls the digestive system and interacts with the brain through the nervous system.

So, it makes sense to let the gut, the intuition, partly influence some decisions in project management.

Intuition, in a nutshell, is when we simply “know” or perceive something, without thinking about it carefully or without collecting complete evidence.

Clearly, the margin of error can be large, so sometimes intuition can lead to disappointment.

So, you have to be careful: an intuition can be convincing but could lead you astray.

Developing intuition

Intuition is supported by serenity, awareness, experience and training.

Intuition, even for project managers, can be improved by practicing the development of each of these aspects:

  • Immobility and serenity;
  • Awareness;
  • Experience;
  • Training;

How the Project Manager can develop the gift of intuition: Immobility and serenity

The first step towards intuition is doing nothing, especially during “high-pressure” moments.

You simply have to create a quiet moment for yourself, relax in a comfortable environment, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, clear your mind.

This does not mean that intuition occurs only during periods of absolute quiet, but this can also occur during a more stressful moment. However, when a stressful moment does not immediately occur, it is a good idea to create your own haven of serenity. It is mostly in periods of calm that it is much easier for intuition to present itself.

How the Project Manager can develop the gift of intuition: awareness

After having freed the mental space for intuition to occur, the next step is to pay attention.

How do you make decisions? How do different situations affect you physically and emotionally? How do you process the world around you? Situational and environmental factors impact the results.

Asking these questions helps you to be aware of what’s happening and leads to intuition. Ask these questions all the time and don’t let events stop you from thinking.

How the Project Manager can develop the gift of intuition: experience

Studies show that the more experience you have, the more likely you are to use intuition.

We have already seen how the experience and lessons learned are a very important source of advice for a project manager. It is not sufficient, however, to repeat blindly what has already happened in the past, the situations are never perfectly identical and the intuition of the PM plays a key role.

Therefore, one way to improve the intuition is to be patient and let “everything run”.

There are, however, some so-called experience accelerators that can help you develop your intuition more quickly. An experience accelerator, for example, translates into having a mentor.

Good mentors share their experiences so that they can be used to help understand what is happening and why.

Another accelerator of experience is putting yourself in a position that allows you to increase your knowledge and skills. Working on a larger project, a different type of project or even an uncomfortable project helps to increase the skill and knowledge of the PM. This momentum on new skills will also improve the development of intuition more quickly.

How the Project Manager can develop the gift of intuition: training

Perhaps the most powerful experience accelerator is professional and personal development.

Participating in thought-defying sessions and working on developing one’s own human-side skills of change for a PM is crucial.

Studies show that people’s skills are related to the success of the project.

In addition, professional development is a great way to meet other project managers and establish a relationship. Sharing experiences and hearing how people have achieved their successes can be a great opportunity for discussion. These people can be considered as a kind of “one-day mentor”.

For a project manager intuition is, in conclusion, a muscle that can be trained

Training one’s skills is, even in the case of intuition, a winning trick.

However, you have to be careful. A dangerous misconception about intuition is that it should not be used to make decisions without proper checks. Intuition can give us ideas and the information that comes from intuition should not be considered separately.

The best use of intuition is not to decide whether to do something on the basis of intuition alone, but simply to add information to what is already known and perceived.

Identifying how our intuitive faculty works allows us to use it selectively for effective decision-making.

A predominantly linear process may be preferable when clear and empirical information is available, but when only a few data are available, an intuitive process could be much more efficient.

It is worth learning the techniques by which intuitive data can be clearly separated from intellectual and emotional data.

Although you may not be familiar with the process, every decision you make to some extent always uses a person’s intuition, knowledge, judgment and feelings.

The 4 sources of information to assess situations

By simplifying the complex psychological processes that take place every day, one can generally say that situations are evaluated on the basis of four sources of information:

  1. What we you know about them – our own knowledge and memories.
  2. What do we think of them – our own judgments and interpretations.
  3. How we feel about the situation – our feelings and emotions.
  4. What can we perceive about these situations – intuition.

If we believe in intuition, we will give our subconscious a cue to allow the decision making process to work also in an intuitive way.

For a project manager, scenario planning is a perfect approach to unleash intuition and test it.

Mentally analyzing different scenarios, positive and negative, will give the intuition a series of results to reflect on and a method to optimize the decision-making process.

That’s why the best project managers tend to be cold, careful and rational calculators, however intuition is what makes these PMs so exceptional.

We have the tools, we have the culture.

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