Pracademic Project Leadership


The View from the Barber Shop Mirror



Dr. Dale S. Deardorff

Engineering Management, CSUN
MSEM, California State University – Tseng College

Northridge, California, USA


Project and Program Managers are constantly balancing the need to be both strategic and tactical in order to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of their efforts. As the current working environment becomes more VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) driven, it forces the need for new ways to think about tactical Positive and Negative Risks.  In addition to the added value created by this clarity, the current working environment requires additional exploration of day-to-day Problems, Issues and Concerns within a modern program or project.

Keywords: Pracademic, Project Leadership, Program Leadership, Project Management, Acceptable, Infinity, VUCA, Tactical Risk, Strategic Risk Management, Problems, Issues, Concerns.



The purpose of this paper is to explore the current thinking attitudes, mental models and paradigms about Program and Project Risk. Additionally, it is to provide a pracademic structure for understanding the difference between strategic and tactical risk identification and interpretation. At the same time, a key element of the publication is to enlighten readers about the need to fully explore their problems, issues and concerns as a Program or Project Manager.

If you’ve ever been between two mirrors that face each other, such as in a barbershop or a beauty salon, you’re familiar with the seemingly endless line of images fading into the distance.

Figure 1.0: Infinity Mirror

This phenomenon, illustrated in the image above contains an extreme number of multiple images in two parallel mirrors, known to physicists as the “barbershop effect” or the Infinity Mirror. The infinity mirror (also sometimes called an infinite mirror) is a configuration of two or more parallel or nearly parallel mirrors, creating a series of smaller and smaller reflections that appear to recede to infinity. This is the metaphor we need to use for evaluating and modeling the constant risks that we encounter in projects and programs. The term pracademic, for this publication, is tailored to refer to someone who is both an academic (learner) and an active practitioner in their subject area (Posner, 2009). It is the clear understanding of both theory, evidence-based research, and years of practical experience in the field of Program and Project Management.

Pracademic VUCA Strategy

Project Management is the process of leading the work of a team to achieve all project goals within the given constraints. The primary constraints for pracademic program and project managers are scope, time, and budget. The secondary challenge is to optimize the allocation of necessary inputs and apply them to meet pre-defined objectives by increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of the project resources by providing value.

Project Management, as proposed by Larson & Gray (2021), requires a balance of critical skill sets and key behaviors that exist today in a socio-technical approach. The technical dimension (science) includes planning, scheduling and controlling aspects of a project. The socio cultural dimension (art) involves the management of a project. The VUCA environment, experienced in programs and projects, requires a new set of thinking and strategy skills. Strategy skills refer to the particular set of individual skills required to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of project activities during the completion of a VUCA Project.


To read entire paper, click here

Author’s Note: Project Management development of SPST Model, Tactical Risks Inventory and PIC Impact Matrix were sponsored by the Rocky Peak Leadership Center. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Dale S. Deardorff, Rocky Peak Leadership Center, 11238 Sierra Pass Place, Chatsworth, California, CA 91311, United States. Email: dale.deardorff@csun.edu

How to cite this paper: Deardorff, D. S. (2022). Pracademic Project Leadership –The View from the Barber Shop Mirror; PM World Journal, Vol. XI, Issue VI, June. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/pmwj118-Jun2022-Deardorff-pracademic-project-leadership-view-from-barbar-shop-mirror.pdf

About the Author

Dr. Dale S. Deardorff

California, USA


Dr. Dale S. Deardorff worked for Boeing Integrated Defense Systems and Space Propulsion Development divisions as a Project and Program manager for over 20 years. He worked for the Lockheed Burbank “Skunk” works and Aircraft division for almost 10 years and a high technology Valencia California start up for a couple of years.  This 30 plus years’ experience is a “Pracademic” blending of commercial, military, government, NASA and high technology organizations.  Dale has taught Project Management “on-line” for multiple universities as an adjunct instructor since 2003 and continues to contribute to project management methodologies and philosophies as a current thought leader.

He created the Rocky Peak Leadership Center in 2010 and has helped modern organizations as an enterprise and executive consultant in the areas of thinking methodologies, Innovation and leadership training and facilitation. Dr. Deardorff volunteers with youth leadership programs and supports local youth training in the areas of personal mastery and effective collaboration techniques.

Rocky Peak Leadership Center – www.rockypeakLC.com

Dale S Deardorff contact – d.s.deardorff@gmail.com

To view other works by Dr. Deardorff, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/dr-dale-s-deardorff/