What now newbie? Or who does not ask, remains stupid …

3 min.

Summary

You come to a new company and take on a new role or you take on a new project? How you plan a good handover was described in handover of a program in 6 phases. Now you are in a conversation with one of your new colleagues to determine where the shoe pinches or what needs to be tackled first. Since you will usually not only have an interview with a single colleague in order to have an overall view of the situation, it is advisable to conduct these interviews in a structured manner. For this purpose, I have collected a few questions over the years that are suitable for each interview and can raise interesting aspects.

How do I organise the interviews?

You should always differentiate between team-related and individual questions, because in the beginning it is easier to talk about the team or the overall situation than directly about your own sensitivities.

  • Team or overall situation
    • What is the biggest challenge we face right now or in the near future?
    • Why are we facing this challenge?
    • What are the most promising and untapped growth opportunities?
    • What do we have to do to realise their potential?
    • If she were me, what would you focus on?
  • Individual
    • How satisfied with your task? In which direction do you want to continue?
    • What do you expect from your job in the short / medium term?
    • What do you expect from me?
    • What are your strengths / what do you want to contribute to the team?
    • Which work processes can be improved?
    • What is the cooperation/productivity in the team/team atmosphere like?
    • What do you / the team / the department need to perform better?
  • Wishes to the genie in a bottle?
    A question that often brings up ideas that have not yet been expressed is the question about the three wishes to the fairy. Specifically this means which 3 wishes would you put to the fairy in the given context. Surprising and often very helpful answers come up. These often round off the picture or bring out completely new aspects.

How do I ask?

If the flow of conversation comes to a standstill, you want to recognize a clear priority or you want to find something out more precisely, then the following questions are appropriate.

  • Conversation fit
    It is very important to find out whether something is depressing the other person and whether the conversation is not meaningful at the moment.
  • Alternative or comparative questions
    • What’s better: this or that? Either way? Here or there?
    • If that, then what? If not so, by what means?
    • Scaling questions: On a scale from 0 to 10, how do you deal with this situation?
  • Determination of causes
    If you believe that the mentioned cause or reason is not yet substantially addressed, then follow up like a small child with 5 times “Why? If you don’t dare to use them, the 5-Why-method is also popular with scientists.
    Asking for the “why” can also reveal the reasons for the behaviour and the motivation of the behaviour.
  • Paradoxical questions or worsening questions can help in the event that creative solutions are needed or a new perspective is to be adopted. Example is, what do I have to do to make the product a flop?
  • Circular questions help to look at situations from different angles. For example, what would Mr Müller say?
  • As an alternative to the genie in the bottle question, you can also place the wonder question: The initial situation is that, as if by magic, all problems have been solved and you ask what would be different, how do you know that the problem is gone, how did the cooperation change or which other question of change can be helpful?

Achieving regularity

Carry out such discussions immediately after entering the new role or task and, above all, regularly. This will keep you on the ball. If you want to record changes early on and across the entire workforce or the entire team, my contribution to team spirit and early indication is ideal. The questions are also a good basis for an employee interview.

Transformations and project culture or leadership towards change

3 min.

Summary

Transformation is not a change process, but a small crisis. 80% of people prefer stability to change. Change is a necessary evil for this type of person to move from one stable state to another. The change agent or project manager must therefore change old rules, which allow the no longer desired action strategies. In order to change a project culture, the patterns of thought and behavior of all participants must be changed. Project culture is the sum of all thought and behavior patterns of all people in the system. It is a misconception that managers or project managers should give fewer rules and instructions so that the team can and will become innovative.

Transformation is a crisis

Transformation is not a change process, but a small crisis. Therefore, a change agent does not have to admonish that certain actions are no longer desired or that others are desired. On the other hand, he should consciously take old patterns of thinking / possibilities of action as the basis for application through other rules. The “Change Agent” does not carry out change, but limits or expands room for maneuver. And he coaches consciously, but does not monitor. He must ensure that the old strands of action are not used for 90 days in order to make a new pattern of action possible for the colleagues involved. In this period new patterns of thinking are sought, old habits are thrown overboard and the new patterns of thinking are finally applied without effort.

So much for the ideal world.

Stability is the dream of most people

80% of people prefer stability to change. The reason for this is that people want to use as little energy as possible to achieve something. A change needs more energy and is therefore unwanted. Changes are a necessary evil for this type of person to move from one stable state to another. This is also seen by these people as a criticism of their previous attitudes, actions or whatever is to be changed. In today’s complex world, in which stable states – if at all – arise only very briefly, constant change is rather the normal state. I assume that today’s environments therefore perceive people as more stressful.

Project managers or “change agents” should change something over which you have no influence: Thinking patterns and attitudes of participants. As I said, the agent must therefore change old rules that allow for strategies that are no longer desired. With the new rules each participant in the transformation will then acquire new patterns of behavior and thinking.

If I want to change something, I must consciously plunge myself and my organization into a crisis in order to bring about a change.

Changing the project culture

In order to change a project culture, I have to change the patterns of thought and behavior of all participants, because they shape the project culture. Project culture is therefore not a centrally defined guideline, but a sum of all thought and behavior patterns of all people in the system.

The well-known leadership models and project organizations are often based on very old models such as military and church structures. These models create stability, but no change. This is because the limits for patterns of thought and behaviour are set. In leadership it becomes more and more important to forget the existing (patterns of thinking or behaviour) in order to make innovations possible.

The misbelief as a leader should be given fewer rules today

It is therefore a misconception that managers or project managers should give fewer rules and instructions so that the team can and will become innovative. In order to enable innovation, the project manager has to set different / new rules so that the team changes from the “comfort zone” (old thinking patterns and actions) to a new state and can create something new.

Stakeholder Management as an Element of the Six Interdependencies

4 min.

Summary


In order to identify the right stakeholders of the project, the environment analysis is carried out as a precursor. The social environment factors are included in the stakeholder analysis and it is recommended to consider them according to the following dimensions: Power and conflict potential. The objective of the stakeholder analysis is to group the stakeholders in the individual quadrants of a 4-quadrant portfolio in order to represent a corresponding number of stakeholder strategies. If I consolidate the stakeholders in a stakeholder portfolio quadrant, I have the chance to plan a consolidated measure using the common strategy of the quadrant. Various sources of error in the preparation of the stakeholder analysis are pointed out.

What is a stakeholder?

As already mentioned in my “Six Interdependencies“, the consideration of stakeholders is an essential component for project success. Stakeholders are individuals, groups of people, organizations or the entirety of all those who are involved in the project, directly or indirectly affected by it or have a justified interest in it.

Environmental analysis as a basis for stakeholder analysis

In order to identify the right stakeholders of the project, the environment analysis is carried out as a precursor. The project environment analysis is a systematic, forward-looking consideration, observation and analysis of the positive (supporting) and negative (disruptive) influences of the project environment on the project, to be introduced as early as the initiation phase. A distinction is made between the social and factual environmental factors. A further distinction can be made between project-internal, project-external or company-internal or company-external factors. A differentiation exclusively between internal and external factors is not specific enough. Opportunities and risks in the further course of the project planning can be determined from the objective environmental factors and interfaces of the project can be made conscious.

Stakeholder analysis and its determination

The social environment factors are included in the stakeholder analysis and it is recommended to consider them according to the following dimensions: Power and conflict potential. Other dimensions such as influence, interest can be qualitative but not necessarily clearly grouping dimensions. Interest and influence can be positive, negative, high or low. The advantage of power and conflict potential is that they can be high and low, but not positive or negative at the same time. Why do we only want to record high and low values of the two dimensions and not e.g. values with very high, very low etc.? Low conflict potential stands for (potential or actual) promoters and high conflict potential for (potential or actual) opponents. In practice, a constant consideration of the (potential) opponents and promoters is necessary anyway.

The objective of stakeholder analysis is to group the stakeholders in the individual quadrants of a 4-quandrant portfolio in order to subsequently reflect a corresponding number of stakeholder strategies in it. It therefore makes sense to group the stakeholders in a portfolio into high and low power, high and low conflict potential. A direct allocation of stakeholder strategies can then take place directly.

Stakeholder strategies and their allocation in the portfolio

The following strategies can be included in a stakeholder portfolio:

  • Participative strategy based on participation and active involvement, communication and information of the project environment actors, e.g. joint decision making workshops,
  • discursive strategy, which (mostly reactive) is geared to the objective analysis of the project environment, e.g. by means of conflict resolution instruments,
  • repressive strategies characterised by the use of organisational, informational or factual power, e.g. management requirements or selective information.

For the fourth quadrant, it is recommended to provide for purely informational measures, which, however, do not represent a real strategy and are therefore not referred to as such.

A meaningful stakeholder portfolio thus looks as follows:

Stakeholder-Portfolio

Stakeholder strategies – why is that?

Why do I want to look at strategies and not just measures for each stakeholder? Measures per stakeholder are time-consuming and costly. If I now plan individual measures for each stakeholder, I have a complex bundle of measures. If, on the other hand, I consolidate the stakeholders in a stakeholder portfolio quadrant, I have the opportunity to plan a consolidated measure using the joint strategy of the quadrant.

Typical sources of error in stakeholder analysis

If stakeholder strategies are mapped on the basis of dimensions other than power and conflict potential, there is a danger that the stakeholders will not be clearly classified. If, for example, the stakeholder’s interest is highlighted instead of the power dimension, secretly positive, negative, high and low groupings are possible and therefore multiple allocation to portfolio quadrants is likely. I have observed this in many misguided stakeholder analyses.

Another problem can be the failure to conduct a continuous stakeholder analysis. You should always look at stakeholders anew. Shifts in power in a company can change the dimension of power, but above all the characteristics of the dimension of conflict potential can change again and again. The stakeholder’s potential for conflict with the project can change as a result of changes in attitudes towards the project as a result of project developments.

A renunciation of the combined indication of names or roles already in the environment analysis and then also in the transfer into the stakeholder analysis can lead to a generalization and to an overlooking of important characteristics. Mr. Mayer-Schulze can be a pedantic, conflict-laden comrade-in-arms, but his role as a user does not necessarily suggest this.

Grouped environmental factors such as “steering committee” instead of the performance of all individual steering committee members may lead to lump sums and thus the overlooking of specific interests and influences.

What belongs in the status report?

2 min.

Summary

A regular status report is important in the project. The status report is the basic information for the members of the steering committee. It is advisable to create a list of the typical contents of a report, which can be used in any presentation form. Also the status light colours must be well defined to ban the watermelon effect.

Addressees and occasion

A regular status report is important in the project. Regular means that a predefined cycle or on certain predefined occasions is created and delivered to the specified recipients. The objective is to present the progress of the project, to address decision-making needs and to point out risks and problems. The status report is the basic information for all members of the steering committee.

Content

Each status report should include the following:

  • Management Summary
  • Status light
  • Defined indicators (often performance, deadline and costs) and optionally their development in an Earned Value analysis
  • Achievements in the reporting period
  • Planned but unachieved in the period
  • Initiated or planned measures
  • Planned for the next reporting period / upcoming milestones
  • Top (3) risks
  • Necessary decisions

Status Light Colours and the Eternal Controversy

Again and again there are energetic discussions about which colour the status light should have. It often doesn’t make sense to take part in them and as a project manager you should have a clear and above all simple, easy to understand and valid definition for all levels at hand in order to be able to avert the watermelon effect (red inside, green outside). The following definition can be of help:

  • Red = Problems exist which can no longer be solved at the reporting level and which have a negative effect on the defined indicators (usually performance, deadline, costs) or which have already had an effect. Measures were not effective or not possible. There is a need for decision or action at the higher level (level above that of the reporting party).
  • Yellow = The defined indicators show plan deviations. Problems exist that the reporting person plans to solve. Measures have been or are being taken (list of measures required). The need for decision or action on the part of the higher authority is foreseeable if the measures taken do not have an effect.
  • Green = No problems at the reporting level. The defined indicators show no deviations from the plan.

A possible file naming convention for the status report can be found here.

Resources – what ugly word?!

3 min.

Summary

You know Germans have more words to say something similar but different. There is always a “sound” connected to similar words. An “Einsatzmittel” as an earlier DIN term and a synonym for the current term “resources” for the project. Resources in project management are personnel and material resources that are needed to carry out processes, work packages and projects. Many people say that to describe personnel or project staff as “Einsatzmittel” or even resources is not adequate. As already noted in my article “Six Interdependencies” resources / resources are limited available for a project.

Resource planning

In the planning phase of the project, the resources are displayed on the timeline in which they are available to the project. The aim is to anchor the resources in the project as briefly, evenly and as little as possible. Because the use of resources causes costs and above all also as with “Six Interdependencies” noted deficits in the line organization or in other projects.

Qualification for personnel and specification for material resources are the decisive characteristics of resource characteristics in resource management and the determination of demand.

The relation to agility

In agile project management, resource planning is just as relevant as in classical project management. Even if, for example, SCRUM teams are usually available full-time for the entire sprint length, they still represent a critical factor, since their capacity is to be used just as “optimally” as in classic PM by selecting the relevant user stories. Even in agile projects, factual resources such as available mainframe time slots are regarded as critical resources with the same dedication.

Resources and their sound

The introduction of the term resources and resource management has met with much criticism in the German speaking project manager community in connection with sounding lack of appreciation of the employees in the project and its qualification. The qualification required for project employees is subject to constant change and is certainly viewed differently today than it was when DIN was amended in 2009. The orientation towards employees has also changed considerably since then. Nevertheless, it can be stated that if the term “resource” is seen in connection with “one time usage”, this is inhumane and in any case cannot be seen as good. It would be careless and degrading. On the positive side, since it is regarded as inevitably lost, the term “resources” on natural resources such as crude oil or nature as such has had a positive impact in recent years on the term resource in German language. This also gives rise to hopes that a pure view of resources as labour/worker will increasingly lose ground. For the awareness that it can represent lost lifetime for any human, as long as it sees no sense behind the given task. What makes sense for the individual person, but also for society as a whole, will become an essential factor in resource management in project management, because even today, personnel for many tasks can simply no longer be found on the “market”.

How do I put together the best team?

2 min.

Summary

Team composition and understanding of roles are a success factor for successful project implementation. The Belbin model can be used to analyse and define an optimal mix of colleagues in the team with a wide variety of characteristics. My observation is that in international teams the mix is often easier to achieve due to the different cultural backgrounds. In teams without clear leadership authority it is even more elementary that the team members are deployed according to their strengths and the composition of the team is “optimal”.

Why do I have to take care of this?

In addition to my firm conviction that international and thus interculturally assembled teams are the best, we should take a closer look at why this is so. An analysis in an environment where leadership is given without epaulettes is particularly relevant. This is where optimally assembled teams become particularly important.

The origins of intercultural effectiveness with regard to team composition are determined by the cultural dimensions (e.g. according to Hofstede) and thus the stronger or weaker character of the people involved.

What does Belbin say?

Meredith Belbin presents nine roles in 1981, which should be taken into account when putting together a team. These nine roles are divided into three groups.

  • Action-oriented roles
    • Implementer = implements ideas and plans
    • Finisher = Ensures quality-conscious work and ensures that deadlines are met
    • Shaper = Encourages the team to improve. Eliminates problems.
  • Communication-oriented roles
    • Co-ordinator = Coordinates the team and promotes results orientation.
    • Teamworker = promotes team building
    • Resource Investigator = Promotes the exploitation of opportunities and forms a network in the project environment.
  • Knowledge-oriented roles
    • Plant = Shows ideas and possible solutions.
    • Monitor-Evaluator = Analyzes options for action for their feasibility.
    • Specialist = Brings in his expertise.

How does it work?

Team members and managers can identify the respective strengths and weaknesses in their own team by looking at the various roles and reflecting on them in order to use the potential of the individuals as well as the potential for the composition of teams. The team can be “balanced” through a mutual understanding and awareness of the characteristics. Surely the above mentioned roles will never be found in their pure form, because everyone assumes different roles depending on the project context or the project task, but nevertheless the understanding at least about the tendencies in the role characteristics for team cooperation helps.

From the “Triple Constraints” to the “Six Interdependencies”

3 min.

Summary

The project objectives, the Magic Triangle, Triple Constraint or also called Objectives Triangle is a consolidated representation of the project objectives. In the course of time, a further target variable has been added to represent stakeholder satisfaction, especially client satisfaction. The project is carried out in the context of organisations. At least one organization provides resources in the form of project personnel and material resources. A simple resource planning of the project optimized for the project isolated from the context is not target-oriented. Further each project has not only positive aspects, but causes also a damage. These are the “six interdependencies” which also apply to agile project management approaches.

Origin and Development

The project objective variables, the magic triangle, triple constraint or also called objectives triangle is a consolidated representation of the project objectives on the basis of the measurement variables

  • scope or service,
  • cost (hours or person days and costs) and
  • time (duration and dates).

In the course of time, a further target variable has been added, which is to represent stakeholder satisfaction, especially customer satisfaction. An extension to the magic square did not take place, but was seen as an extension of the magic triangle.

A magic square in connection with project management was mistakenly included in the literature, in which the quality was recorded separately. However, we must clearly distance ourselves from this, since quality is inherently anchored in the aforementioned goals.

We can therefore state that there are at least four indicators for the success of a project: scope, time, cost and stakeholder satisfaction.

Project success in the context of the environment

The project will be carried out in the context of organisations. At least one organisation provides resources in the form of project personnel and material resources. These are also limited and it is a component of the planning duties and thus criterion of the project success, how effectively the project personnel and how careful/limited the project resources are used for the entire organization. Because the project personnel is often entrusted with other tasks in the line and / or the coworkers are just as urgently looked for in other projects. The material resources such as an excavator become just as important for the course of the project on another construction site, for example. A simple resource planning of the project optimized for the project isolated from the context is not goal-prominent. The optimization needs which the project director, the project portfolio manager or the specialist departments specify for project resources are not only a one-sided process. Perhaps the consideration of this interdependence resource optimization in project success would also nip in the bud the thought construct of “thinking of project members only as inputs”.

Every project not only has positive aspects, but also causes damage. For example, an implementation of software may lead to job losses. Or an environmental protection project for the creation of a new nature reserve leads to the loss of a farmer’s arable land. This causes damage to the farmer, even if he is certainly compensated for it. So here we have a clear contribution to the project success in this case with a negative sign. We cannot simply deduct this negative contribution from the performance. Here we would make it too easy for ourselves, because the service is the desired dimension of the client and automatically does not take the damage into account.

In addition to scope, time, cost and stakeholder satisfaction, we have now established two further success criteria such as resource optimization and project damage.

We have thus outlined the “Six Interdependencies”.

Six Interdependencies

Agility and the reflection of the Six Interdependencies

Now you might think the magic triangle was never relevant for me as an agile product owner anyway, because the performance is never relevant due to “fix” number of story points that can be processed in a sprint. This is deceptive and not really true, because by prioritizing the backlog the most important performance is of course defined as “part” of the project. Reprioritizing, adding or removing stories at the start of each sprint deliberately changes the performance of the project. So the six interdependencies are also likely to be relevant in agile practice.

Activity list – why is that?

3 min.

Summary

After work package planning has been completed, the activity list is created as a table. It is the following method to be applied according to the work breakdown structure. The activity list is the link between the work breakdown structure and the schedule.
The real added value is the task list, as a means of reducing the project duration, in that the core team with its expertise and the project manager identifies as many logical sequences as possible that can contribute to reducing the project duration. Even in an agile environment, dependencies need to be identified and taken into account. Splitting user stories without creating additional dependencies is an important skill of the SCRUM team.

What is the task list?

After completion of the work package planning, the process list is created. It is a table of all work packages and contains essential information from the work package planning from which the scheduling is derived in the further course.

The work breakdown structure (WBS) does not yet have any information on the functional sequence (“technical” dependencies). The activity list helps here. In project management, it is a “bridge medium” between WBS and the schedule. The activity list is a table of activities in the project. Based on the activity list, the project manager can determine the start and end dates of the work packages.

What is the added value of the activity list?

After creating the task list, it can be estimated for the first time whether it is possible to achieve the project goal within the framework of the available resources. Now it is possible to add all costs and capacities that were considered necessary by the WP managers. However, it is not yet possible to draw conclusions about the sufficient availability of the necessary capacities, since normally there is no uniform utilization, but rather individual capacity peaks represent the problem. It is also possible to record which predecessors are necessary to start a work package.

The real added value is the task list, as a means of reducing the project duration, in which the core team with its expertise and the project manager identifies as many logical sequences as possible that can contribute to reducing the project duration. So a lazy use of the end-start sequence, because this is so convenient and easy to do, would cost the client project time and drive up project costs. Alternative sequences such as Beginning-Start help the project manager reduce the number of tasks on the critical path. This simplifies project control. The work package managers should not define the inputs for the sequence relationship in a quiet chamber, but communicate them to the core team (sub-project manager or project manager in the program), which then determines optimized sequences. The creation and discussion of the process list thus raises the potential for later optimization of the flow and schedule at an early stage.

Differentiation / forerunner to the schedule

From the sequence of the work packages it can be derived when which work package starts. Work packages that do not have a direct predecessor can start immediately. All others follow. An initial schedule can be derived from this. This, however, is not much more than an indication, since diverse framework conditions such as staff vacation, capacity limits of few available qualifications are not taken into account.

What is the task list in an agile environment?

Even in an agile environment, dependencies need to be identified and taken into account. Here, for example, SCRUM teams already take into account how dependencies between backlog items are represented in the overall backlog planning. The split of the backlog items can be done initially by the product owner, but should be validated by the entire agile team lastest during the initial sprint planning. Even within SCRUM teams, dependencies are constantly re-evaluated, since the continuous prioritization of user stories can possibly lead to additional identified dependencies. Splitting user stories without creating additional dependencies is an important skill of the SCRUM team. However, it should be taken into account that the user stories are not only split according to the technical paths, but that the functional questions are also taken into account. Otherwise, the agile approach will be counteracted. Because then an early and small-scale delivery of functions is no longer guaranteed. As already mentioned, this balancing act of splitting up is a core competence of the entire team.

Quantum computers – practical applications

3 min.

Summary

The quantum computer is now finding its way into the business world and its practical applications and is leaving the purely scientific realm. The quantum computer will enable us to face previously unsolved challenges in the field of artificial intelligence and diverse simulations. In all areas where large amounts of data and parallel processing are necessary.

Miniaturization of transistors reaches its limits today

On a chip of 2 * 2 cm there are 18 billion transistors. Now the physical limits of production are reached with a transistor size of 10 nanometers. The transistor represents the well known characteristic 0 and 1 (1 bit).

The previous manufacturing process using ultraviolet light is now reaching its limits. With transistors in these small sizes (a few atoms large), the electrons jump over the barrier in the transistor (pass through the closed transistor) and the transistor loses its effect of representing 0 or 1 because the electrons become independent. This effect is called quantum mechanical effect.

How does a quantum computer work?

Exactly this effect is used for the production of quantum computers. Because a quantum computer no longer uses only one bit (i.e. 0 and 1; “either or”), but a qubit (0, 1 and 0/1; 2both as well as”). The qubit thus allows 2 states (0 and 1) to be taken simultaneously. This property is called superposition. If now the state of the transistor is measured, this qubit “colabrates” in a clearly defined probability 1 or 0.

With classical bits, four different combinations are represented in the transistor: 00, 11, 01 and 10. With a qubit, all four combinations can be used simultaneously. Thus it is possible to represent N bits for N qubits = 2 high. In addition, parallel arithmetic operations are also possible due to the superposition. These multiply exponentially with each additional qubit.

Furthermore there is another quantum mechanical effect of the “entanglement” = linking of one qubit with another qubit. A qubit reacts automatically to the change of its partner qubit.

The weakening of the Moorschen law (every 18 months a doubling of the computing power) should be stopped again with the development of quantum computers in many applications.

Sensible applications of the quantum computer

Therefore, the quantum computer can perform parallel computations better and is therefore very well suited for searching databases, decrypting encryptions and simulations. The quantum computer does not play an advantage in sequential computations and here the classical computer (digital computer) will certainly continue to be used for cost reasons until further notice.

Examples for simulations can be:

  • simulations of molecule cooling in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries
  • traffic simulations
  • quantum algorithms in artificial intelligence
  • cryptography

The quantum computer is now moving from the scientific research niche into the business world and its practical applications.

How do you program a quantum computer?

The algorithms to be used differ from the algorithms of the digital computer to use entanglement and superposition. Several arithmetic operations, so-called quantum gates, are used to entangle, read or modify the qubits described above. Special algorithms for prime factor decomposition (in crypotography) and special search algorithms (for database query) have existed for a long time, but are now used in business environments.

Ethics and morals and how they determine our future

4 min.

Summary

Ethics and morality as delimitable concepts form the guard rails for our shaping of the future. An action is seen as morally correct if it is regarded by all as correct or just. It must now be defined who “all” are. A different evaluation by different cultural circles of “future topics” leads to different standards of values and thus to accelerated or slowing trends in the introduction of “future topics”.

How do morality and ethics differ?

Ethics and morality as delimitable concepts form the guard rails for our shaping of the future. First a differentiation between the two terms is necessary before we consider how these guard rails apply to the respective context and thus directly influence our future.

Ethics is derived from the Greek word ēthos . Translated, this means character or sense. Morality comes from Latin and means translated custom. Ethics is therefore the higher authority and illuminates various morals and considers them from a philosophical point of view. Morality is the practical application of ethics. Morality is the practising or practical ethics.

What is ethically correct now?

An action is regarded as morally correct if it is regarded by all as correct or fair. Now it has to be defined who “all” are. In the context of globalisation and the ever closer intermeshing of cultures and economies, this is not so easy. In our European culture, ethical values are determined by questions like:

  • Is that natural?
  • Is that normal?
  • Is it human?

In other regions, such as the Silicon Valley or often in Asia, demand is high:

  • Is that causing damage?
  • Is that useful?
  • Does it have a side effect?

This diversity is already empirically underpinned at Hofstede with the cultural dimension “uncertainty avoidance”, as explained in my article International Project Portfolio Management, taking cultural differences into account. Germany has a value of 65 for uncertainty avoidance, in contrast to China with 40 and the USA with 46, for example. The other two cultural groups are therefore rated as much more daring in comparison to Germany.

Ethical diversity and inhomogeneity of cultural groups

As written in my article “Project manager in 2030” over a year ago there will be “in 500 weeks … robots support the care of old people.” Is this natural, normal or even human? The majority of Europeans will say no.

In the USA or Asia, the illumination of this aspect on harm, benefit and side effect will be a very different answer to the ethical question. For through these communities will be put forward: The shortage of caregivers will become more and more apparent and then the benefit of a robot in elderly care will certainly be greater than potential damage. On the contrary, it will be argued that damage will be avoided because the elderly to be cared for do not “lie down” in bed due to the amount of lying down and the constant need to change beds. Does it have any negative side effects? Certainly not, because instead of the staff doing lifting and cleaning, the staff will be able to take care of communication and personal care. Depending on the cultural context, these ethical considerations may differ. The consideration of the thesis from the same article “In 500 weeks we will eat meat bred in laboratories” can be illuminated analogously and the same discrepancy of the approach will be found.

In addition to diversity, the inhomogeneity of cultural circles must also be noted. Within each culture there will be adherents of both forms, which is now ethical. On the one hand followers with the focus on testing for naturalness and humanity vs. followers who rather focus on damage and benefit evaluations.

Effects on the development of future trends

This fundamentally different evaluation of “future topics” leads to different standards of values and thus to accelerated or slowing trends in the introduction of “future topics”. Therefore, will we in Europe lag behind in the new trends and will be other regions be a pulse generator?

I think it depends a lot on the topics. In the field of “immortality”, i.e. DNA replications and changes in the first steps, Asian research laboratories and companies are already a long way ahead in concrete research into immortality. In the field of autonomous driving, there is likely to be a certain dominance in the scientific field in Europe, but this has already neutralised itself in the commercial field. In the blockchain sector, Germany has fortunately established a good basis of start-ups that are internationally competitive.

Do future trends need new regulations?

Now the question arises whether regulations are already necessary for these trends. These are established for topics such as social media (already established commodity products such as Facebook). On the subject of autonomous driving, there are worldwide prototypes of regulations that are used as limited regulations and have been temporarily established by politics on an experimental basis. Here, German policymakers must succeed in adapting these in good time in order not to slow down these new trends in our region in comparison to other regions. Here, key industries such as the German automotive industry are hanging by a thread and could fall behind due to a lame legislation. For it will not be decisive who has completed the first and best autonomous journeys in realistic environments on which test site, but who can and has demonstrated this to the masses. It is already the case today that autonomous systems can drive safer than any human driver (in most environments). The only future trend area I know for which even the world’s greatest visionaries want clear regulations is the field of artificial intelligence. Here, limitations should be set early on so that man, as then the second most intelligent creature after AI, does not become a servant of AI. Fears in this area are not completely unfounded but extremely complex to regulate. Exciting times.