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Foundations of Project Design: More than Chaos Theory

May 1, 2015

Soon after I posted my April 2015 blog — Project Design:  Next-gen Project Planning Technology —  Juval Lowy, the originator of Project Design, sent me a list of the key people whose ideas influenced him during the 14 years he developed Project Design.

The focus of my April 2015 blog was upon software projects being dynamic non-linear chaotic systems, and thus expected to routinely behave in exponentially unpredictable ways.  However, the ability to effectively deal with chaotic systems is only a small part of the capabilities of Project Design, and the story behind it.  These capabilities and that story are told in brief by Lowy’s list of the key people he used to provide a strong foundation for Project Design.

With permission from Lowy I quote his list below in its entirety.  Items enclosed in quotes are from Lowy.  My editorial comments are marked with “George”.  Below are the pillars in the foundation of Project Design method, the next-gen software project planning technology:

“Here is the list of giants, in chronological order:

1871, Helmuth von Moltke, the Elder, Germany: Designed a system of options for agility and rapid execution:

George – Please see the article’s section “Moltke’s Theory of War” for this topic.  Was this the first large scale use of an agile process?  “Moltke’s main thesis was that military strategy had to be understood as a system of options since only the beginning of a military operation was plannable”, Wikipedia.  This is now popularly stated as “no plan survives contact with the enemy”, Wikipedia.


“1949, Admiral Rickover, US Navy, structured approach for project design, critical path, floats as the only way to assign resources, get repeatable projects, reign in complexity, contain costs:


“1967, Sydney Opera House fiasco, then recovery using large scale modeling of critical path as network of networks:

George – The initial attempt at designing, planning and building the Sydney Opera House was a project planning disaster.  Initial plan was for 4 years.  Actual was over 14 years!  The project was rescued by 3 Australian engineers.


“1970, James Antill, Ronald Woodhead in Australia capturing the lessons; this later matured into a full methodology with project crashing, advanced techniques in project design:

George – This is called Critical Path Methods in Construction Practice by the above named authors.  It uses the Sydney Opera House as one of many case studies they examined to find useful techniques and methods of project planning.


“1972, David Parnas, project design stems from a software design that does not change when requirements do. He was first to propose such a design:

George – A key idea of Parnas critical to a software architecture design that does not change when requirements change is known as “Information Hiding”.  Please read the first paragraph of the following link to understand the general idea that Project Design stems from, in addition to the above link.


“1979, Daniel Kahneman, Prospect Theory, the best way to evaluate options is the risk, not to the utility value:

George – This is why Project Design objectively measures several kinds of risk in a project plan.


“2010, Fredrick Brooks, designing the design, captures best the environment and process required for projects in general:

George – This is a book called The Design of Design:  Essays from a Computer Scientist.


Then there is a variety of more general ideas such as complexity theory, dynamic systems, antifragility, quantifying risk, the math I used to bring it all together and more. “

Thank you, Juval Lowy, for sharing the foundations of Project Design with us!

Disclaimer – In no way am I being compensated for the opinions I have expressed in this article.  I have taken the Project Design course and subsequently have spent over 5 intense weeks learning how to effectively use Project Design on a substantial learning project.  Through this experience I have come to believe that the diligent use of Project Design will result in an exceptionally high rate of projects being delivered on schedule, on budget, and on quality.  Thus, to me, Project Design is worthy of blogging about since it has the potential of significantly increasing the productivity of software development and customer satisfaction, which are main themes of this blog.

George Stevens

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