How Project Managers Can Use "Because" Justification

How Project Managers Can Use "Because" Justification
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I ran across a discussion about “because” justification in the book “The Art of Thinking Clearly” by Rolf Dobelli. It is a great tool to have in your back pocket. Although it goes completely against my natural attitude and behavior, I can see the powerful benefits.

In fact, it is all around us…sometimes in a very direct way, and yet at other times in a subtle yet equally effective way. It’s about how we ask for things and about how people interpret requests. Some of it is blatantly obvious, and I have practiced it for as long as I can remember. But much of it has not been so obvious or certainly not so clear and is well worth exploring for its high impact potential on projects.

“Because” justification is illustrated in an experiment by Ellena Lager, a Harvard psychologist, back in the 1970s. She went to a library and waited at the copier until a line formed.

She then approached the first person in line and said “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the [copier]?”

Her success rate was 60 percent. Later she repeated but provided a reason.

“Excuse me. I have five pages. May I use the [copier] because I’m in a rush?”

In this scenario, the success rate rocketed to 94 percent.

She then tried one more scenario, this time asking, “Excuse me. I have five pages. May I go before you because I have to make some copies?”

Even with a clearly weak, lame excuse, the success rate 93 percent.

The conclusion is, whenever you ask for something you want, add a reason. The observed results are that whenever a request is accompanied by a reason, no matter how substantial or weak that reason may be, the results are improved dramatically.

Where, as a PM, do you need to motivate or persuade people where you can use “because” justification to increase your chances of success? Remember, it doesn’t take much to tilt the scales in your favor!

This post is part of the series: Project Management Thinking Traps

A series of four articles on thinking traps and the ramifications for Project Managers. Each of these traps can jade our thinking, but understanding the potential trap can empower us to be more effective leaders and decision makers and have a more positive impact on our projects.

  1. PM Thinking Trap: Obeying and Respecting Authority
  2. PM Thinking Traps: Reversion to Mean
  3. PM Thinking Traps: The Paradox of Choice
  4. PM Thinking Traps: “Because” Justification