Unlearning – An essential power skill


to develop as a Project Manager



By Alfonso Bucero, PhD

Madrid, Spain


Randall Englund

Utah, USA


Learning anything in life requires an open mind. As project managers, we need to be open to new ideas. Reflect on how many assumptions, techniques, knowledge, and perceptions you have relied on that are no longer practical or relevant in today’s project world. Most of us are unaware of our mindset and perceptions; we employ them and remain in our pilot in our everyday lives. The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.

Choosing an alternative paradigm

Unlearning is not about forgetting. It’s about the ability to choose an alternative mental model or paradigm. We add new skills or knowledge to what we already know when we learn. When we unlearn, we step outside the cognitive model to choose a different one. As project managers, we are used to initiating, planning, monitoring, controlling, and closing projects. More and more AI substitutes the planning and tracking, resource assignment, and reporting activities done by AI software. It is amazing how many products have come to the market during the last three years, and it is a train that will not stop.

So, we, as project managers, need to be focused on managing people, building relationships, using our influence, and practicing emotional intelligence. Every project manager needs to move towards learning, unlearning, and relearning new things. Many of the things we learned some years ago are not valid today for several reasons; please reflect upon that. Our focus needs to be people.

See what happens in our brain when we learn, unlearn, and relearn in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Brain diagram showing the effect of Learn, Unlearn, and Relearn

For example, I (Bucero) rented a car several years ago to travel to the UK. I had never driven this kind of car before, so I had to learn the placement of the various controls. I also had to know how to drive on the left side of the road. All of that was relatively easy. The hard part was unlearning how to drive on the right. I had to keep telling myself to “stay left.” It’s why crosswalks in London remind pedestrians to “look right.” It’s difficult to unlearn the mental habits that no longer serve us. Another example is that most project managers started managing projects following a unique approach (Waterfall); now, organizations need to understand the different project management approaches and be supported by project managers to select the right approach to manage their projects.


To read entire article, click here

How to cite this work: Bucero, A. and Englund, R. (2024).  Unlearning – An essential power skill to develop as a Project Manager, commentary, PM World Journal, Vol. XIII, Issue III, March. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/pmwj139-Mar2024-Bucero-Englund-Unlearning-an-essential-power-skill.pdf

About the Authors

Alfonso Bucero

Madrid, Spain


Alfonso Bucero, Ph.D., CPS, ACE, PMP, PMI-RMP, PfMP, SFC, IPMO-E, PMI Fellow, is an International Correspondent and Contributing Editor for the PM World Journal in Madrid, Spain. Mr. Bucero is also the founder and Managing Partner of BUCERO PM Consulting. Alfonso was the founder, sponsor, and President of the PMI Barcelona Chapter until April 2005 and belonged to PMI’s LIAG (Leadership Institute Advisory Group). He was the past President of the PMI Madrid Spain Chapter and then nominated as a PMI EMEA Region 8 Component Mentor. Alfonso was a member of the PMIEF Engagement Committee.

Alfonso has a Computer Science Engineering degree from Universidad Politécnica in Madrid and a Ph.D. in Management from the ISM University. He has 39 years of practical experience and is actively advancing the PM profession in Spain and Europe. Alfonso received the PMI Distinguished Contribution Award on October 9, 2010, the PMI Fellow Award on October 22, 2011, and the PMI Eric Jenett Excellence Award on October 28, 2017. You can contact Mr. Bucero at alfonso.bucero@abucero.com.


Randall L. Englund

Utah, USA


Randall L. Englund, MBA, NPDP, CBM believes all leaders need to create healthy environments for people to consistently and sustainably achieve project success. Sponsors can do a better job of guiding and supporting project teams, and project managers can expand their people skills.

Randall offers keynote talks, consulting, professional facilitation, executive education, and advanced training services to people in management, managing projects, and working on project teams. His approach includes the behavioral, technical, business, and change management aspects that create an environment for project success. The goal is to get greater, optimized results from projects underway or contemplated in the organization. An organic approach to implementing project, program, and portfolio management taps the inherent power of people to work in harmony, have fun, and be more productive.

Randy provides management and leadership awareness through presentations, workshops, seminars, consulting engagements, books, conference papers, blogs, and online University courses. His experiences stem from 22 years at Hewlett-Packard, as a senior project manager in a corporate Project Management Initiative, and as a seminar leader for the Project Management Institute. He was awarded the PMI Distinguished Contributions Award in 2013 as well as Eric Jenett Award of Excellence in 2018.

Randall can be contacted at englundr@englundpmc.com