A warm Queensland thank you for attending this session to share my interests (some say its my obsession) in Project Management and the 4 BIG C’s: Control - the thing that human beings try to do all the time, Chaos – where control does not work well, Complexity - where we are challenged to find answers, Simplicity – where we mostly dwell (yes I’m not great at spelling !) .
Why is this important?What is complexity and complexity theory?What is a complex project?Which approaches, model and tools can we use?What may this mean for project management practice? and…Where could this all lead…Note that much of this new, but I hope to show that it has some value for project managers. I now turn to the three wise men of complexity to provide us with some context…
Stephen Hawking said “I think the next century (21st) will be the century of complexity” in that voice of his of course.Einstein said “I wouldn't give a nickel for the simplicity on this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.” And lastly HL Mencken advises us that “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”So we think we are good at handling complex problems as project managers when….
“Project management is the art of creating the illusion that any outcome is the result of a series of predetermined, deliberate acts when, in fact, it was dumb luck”That’s from Harold Kerzners systems approach bible of project management. Ok but we agree that project management is about producing an outcome that will delight our customers, and we approach it very logically most of the time…
And this is what we get – many ways to get it wrong. Its about really getting IT at the start – whatever IT may be ! In spite of PM certification and standardised approaches practiced during the last 15 years, we know that projects still fail.There is a new example in the press every couple of weeks, so when we look more closely at when project fail, then we find that….
Ironically….. projects fail after the most money has been spent ! This tells us that we want our projects to become more certain towards the end, and not more chaotic. However, if we really really understand during the start what we must deliver at the end, then maybe there will be less failure. That process of project sense-making is to “explore the space of opportunity”. However, its also the space of misunderstanding and high uncertainty ….
Well… today uncertainty is in the driving seat… we are every day coming to terms with lots of surprises and changes, and trying to at minimum survive and at best flourish, but of course when we get it wrong then collapse and extinction happens…Harry Dent has recently released a book called – “The Great Crash Ahead – Strategies for a world turned upside down“, so more is to come. Margaret Wheatley, a leadership visionary, explains it this way:”In the past few years, ever since uncertainty became our insistent twenty-first-century companion, leadership strategies have taken a great leap backward to the familiar territory of command and control”. OK….so what alternatives do we have ?
We by now should know that there are no silver bullets….but…. Yes we can prepare ourselves for the fight !
In complex contexts our aim is to make sense of the situation we find our self in, and act accordingly to create conditions that will lead to at least sustainable (we must stop the waste) or progressive futures (we grow and flourish with our environment). Now how do we spot a complex context…?
By also looking at totally ordered and disordered contexts – complexity sits in the middle in a space called un-order.Order is being in-control, complexity is in un-control, disorder is out-of-control. Order bring stability, complexity brings evolution and revolution, and disorder brings catastrophe.Ordered rules are constrictive, complex rules are principled, and disordered rules are conflicted. Order is regimented, complexity is dynamic and disorder is chaotic.Now lets look at another view of complexity…
One of my favorite images ! … A beautiful artistic rendition of complexity - As a project manager, my title is “a view of a portfolio of projects bravely delivering change”.I would like to introduce you next to complexity theory…
It is a jumble of theories that originated in the 50’s from systems theory, cybernetics, biological and cognitive science, fueled by the digital engine, and today popping up across many diverse fields such as natural sciences, economics, sociology, medicine, architecture, cognitive science, management and organisations, and now… project management…
The area of complexity that we are referencing, is social complexity. It’s the opposite end of the mechanical clockwork view of the world at the organic view of the world. In that context we view the mechanical as complicated systems, and the organic as complex systems.
Complicated systems comprise interrelated parts, exhibits linear and predictable behavior, and can be reduced and re-constructed as the sum of its parts.Complex systems have connected elements, acts unpredictably with non-linear responses, flourishes on feedback, creates emergent newness, and ultimately cannot be described by the sum of the parts. Complex systems also create wicked problems…
Although these wicket problems are at national and world scales, we have similar wild, wooly and wicked problems in our organisations and projects. Not all problems are created equal , some are simple, some are complicated, and some are wicked ! With wicked problems there is no one right answer, it is what it is and we have to work with it that way. Our task as project managers are to tackle these problems head on – thats what we are paid to do.
I offer you Complexity Theory as a way to address wicked problems…. I translated this slide to a sentence that my kids would understand: “Like its a weird Xboxgame with many characters playing together to make strange things happen all the time that you never expected. Its fully sick”. Now where do we find complexity in action…
Examples of complexity in action are slime mold that learns to power a robot, the organic evolution of a city like Manchester, the sheer pleasure of Jazz improvisation, and the punctuated equilibrium of the Arab Spring. In relation to the new middle eastern governments and the movement to change I also would like to paraphrase Robert Pirzig who said “If a revolution destroys a government, but the systematic patterns of thought that produced that government are left intact, then those patterns will repeat themselves… There’s so much talk about the system. And so little understanding.” Complexity thinking is all about understanding the nature of systemic dynamics.
A Complex Adaptive System, which is the systems construct at the core of many complexity theories, is a self organised dynamical network of agents that feed on the information and energy in their environment to produce new forms of emergent behavior that in itself causes changes and amplifying and dampening feedback loops. A human CAS is constantly seeking advantage for itself by remembering, learning, adapting and re-organizing, causing non-linear change that can result in evolution, revolution or collapse.
Now lets get back to project management… What can a complex project be ? Here are a few examples.However, maybe all projects contain complexity because human beings are involved.
The familiar line command driven hierarchy…
Now changes into a network view of connected agents in a landscape.I will next discuss some models of complexity that could be useful for project management purposes…
Ralph Stacey’s Certainty and Agreement Matrix illustrates that when we do things well, its normally simple things that we do when we agree, and are certain about. But to reach that space we need to move through areas of anarchy, complexity and complication. The complex area is where innovation and creativity emerges that can be useful to steer us to more certainty and more agreement.
Next we Shenhar and Dvirs Diamond model that is used to profile the overall complexity of a project. It is called the NTCP Model, and they propose that the strategy for the project must be adapted to fit the profile of the diamond.The dimensions are:Novelty – Derivative, Platform and Breakthrough.Technology – Low-tech, Medium-Tech, High-Tech and Super High-Tech.Complexity – Assembly, Systems, Array of systems.Pace – Regular, Fast/Competitive, Time Critical and Blitz. The bigger the diamond, the more uncertain and risky the project. We can address the project in terms of its actual and required management style, and bring the two in line. In the example of the Denver International Project failure, two different styles were required for different components of the project. The failure to appropriately address the baggage systems complexity caused a 16 month delay that cost $1.1 Mil a day.
Kathleen (Kitty) Haas, offers a similar model with more dimensions, and she also proposes that the different scores/profiles dictate a “fit” to to various different project cycles She offers the following project cycle, i.e. methodologies, range to apply from the least to the most complex projects and are classified as linear, iterative and adaptive styles. They are:Waterfall, Modified Waterfall, Rapid Application Development, Vee Model, Incremental Delivery, Spiral Model, Agile Model, Evolutionary Prototyping and eXtreme Project Management.She further elaborates on how to address Large long-duration projects, Large dispersed culturally diverse projects, Highly innovative and urgent projects, Ambiguous projects, Volatile projects, High visibility strategic projects, Large scale change initiatives, Risky, high dependency constrained projects.Its also possible that we may influence the profile of the project to change over time (although some dimensions will not change due to its inherent nature).The next model is the one I really like…
Its DavidSnowdensCynefin Model, which I believe is very applicable to understanding project contexts. It was presented in general management practice in a important article in the Harvard Business Review in 2007. From then its has gained tremendous popularity as a complexity sense making model.Notice the dark line between simple and chaotic, I represents a cliff that we can easily fall into and end up in chaos. That where failed projects end up. We also have three sets of explanations within each quadrant:The type of practice, the nature of its uncertainty and the way we should respond.
The typical controlbehaviors in each quadrant are:Simple – low on empowerment, high on management control. Cannot move without managers approval. Escalation to the top for simplest decisions.Complicated – technical arguments and differing opinions, waiting for opinions from other busy experts, time lost seeking right answers.Complex – emergent leadership, boundary exploration, potential tipping points, accelerated resource consumption.Chaotic – loss of control/grasping and abandonment of control, free for all, survival of the fittest, forceful tactics.
The sweet spots are in the middle of each quadrant, but we can identify dynamical trends to other parts of the quadrants which prepares events for a boundary transition. Movement to the extreme corners finds us at:Mind numbing bureaucracy.Tyranny of the Experts.Warm and Fuzzy Distractions.True Catastrophe.
These are a collection of open source tools that create new understanding in groups and organisations – the consultant becomes a catalyst to stimulate the group to interact in different ways to create its own new understandings and direction for action.
Scrum works !!! But you have to create receptive environments for it to entrench itself into and flourish. The best way is a combination of bottom-up and top-down implementation. Be cautious that is does not become dogma again like we find with many other methodologies – Agile also means being agile in real life and open minded and responsive to various situations – and that must remain the fundamental mindset. Avoid creating opposing tribes – the Waterfall Tribe vs. the Agile Tribe and as soon as that starts happening – break it down ! (Similarly the conflict between PMBOK and Prince 2 specialists – its just silly!!!)
These games make engaging with your customers and your products fun, and use aspects of complex cognition, sociology and psychology to create innovative answers as opposed to the traditional methods. They are classed as “Infinite” games as opposed to Finite games that have a win-lose outcome. Infinite games are about continued play with different degrees of open ended exploration to stimulate creativity and strengthen our relationships with our customers and stakeholders. Innovation Games provides us the means to move forward when the goals are fuzzy. They are relative short exercises that start out with Divergence, moves into Emergence and closes with Convergence.Stories from practitioners are amazing – these games work particularly well in contexts where there are no single right or wrong answer…
We can create special teams that become good at dealing with complexity. I call them SWAT teams Specialists With Advanced Tools and their role is to act as a Complexity Response Unit in projects to ensure that by using for example Stacey’s model, that uncertainty is removed and agreement is reached, thereby reducing complexity. They can also use Staceys CRPR (the TLA that can never remember) as a mindset tool for project understanding (Complex Responsive Processes of Relating). This is an idea similar to a Scrum team that are specialists at working with uncertain requirements to build a software product, but this team must work at solving messy problems as a part of those that are inside the messy problem (not outside of IT as “consultants” that tell what to do). As a reference the Apollo 13 movie – getting the boys back to earth and working with what you have – the bricoleur in action (The Savage Mind: Bricoleur and Engineer: by Claude Lévi-Strauss) The Magical Number 7 by George Miller from the 50’s…
With all these tools at our fingertips, we can participate as agents by immersing our self in the CAS, actively listen to its components, make sense together, create spaces of creative opportunity development, experiment a bit (with safe fail probes) , then identify patterns of direction so that we can make plans to influence emergent simplicity where we have the lowest risk of failure and minimization of waste.
I could have also called this Simplexity method or Complicity method !.... Yes this is an over-simplification something much more complicated, but as a sense-making device it enables us to better understand what we are working with, and convert the messy problems into knowledge, experiments and learning opportunities that can be used to influence the complex system towards emergent improvement so that it can find the middle way to success. The key is to in-flight almost craft appropriate methodology that considers your project profile and acts to adapt itself to the changing contexts. Therefore we have to break down methodology biases and dogma to become open minded about how we address our messy problems. In the case of a singular simple dogmatic methodology – it looks like a hammer, so every problem is going to look like a nail. Complexity thinking allows us to sense the contextual changes in our projects, and fit appropriate tools and techniques in an adaptive way. Remember – there is no one right and perfect answer but a well developed simple decision made at the other side of complexity is the best we can wish for ….
I would like to end with a few inspiringstatements from JurgenAppelo’s Management 3.0 book on Agility – his pamphlet for complex projects: Each problem has multiple solutions.Solutions depend on the problems contextChanging context requires changing solutionsEach strange solution is the best one somewhereSolutions change the context and themselvesSimplicity necessitates understanding complexityWe cannot predict the best solutionSeen together with the Agile Manifesto, I think we have a way forward to work with messy problems, and turn them into opportunities for evolution and sustainability.
For the curious who feel they need to go an a journey of complexity, a few pockets of information – the first book I recommend is JurgenAppelos Management 3.0 book, then together Stuart Kauffmans At Home In The Universe , followed by Ray Isons Systems Practice… and the rest.Also for those interested in the Cynefin framework, Cognitive-Edge is holding a course in Brisbane at the end of November this year….
And a warm Sunshine State THANK YOU for listening to my story – please feel free to come and talk to me or to send me an e-mail if you are interested to explore this further with me…
Anton Rossouw - Strategic Approaches And Tools For Managing Complex Projects
Anton Rossouw <br />Project Director (CPPD) <br />Strategic Approaches and Tools for Managing Complex Projects<br />
Overview<br />Why is this important ?<br />What is Complexity and Complexity Theory ?<br />What is a complex project ?<br />Which approaches, models and tools are available ?<br />What may this mean for project management practice ?<br />Where is all this leading ?<br />
“I think the next century (21st) will be the century of complexity” Stephen Hawking (1942-!)<br />“I wouldn't give a nickel for the simplicity on this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.” Albert Einstein (1879-1955)<br />“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)<br />Three wise men…<br />
“Project management is the art of creating the illusion that any outcome is the result of a series of predetermined, deliberate acts when, in fact, it was dumb luck”<br />Source: Kerzner, H., (2009), Project Management – A systems approach to Planning, Scheduling and Controlling, 10th edition, John Wiley & Sons.<br />
Understanding project failure<br />Roll-Out 2<br />Projects succeed here !<br />High<br />Roll-Out 1<br />Investment / Value ($)<br />Projects fail here !<br />Mid<br />Space of Opportunity (and high Uncertainty)<br />Projects are constructedto fail <br />or succeed here !<br />Collapse of Value<br />Low<br />Time<br />
Uncertainty in the driving seat!<br />Faced with unknowns and change<br />Trying to come to terms and respond to a myriad of accelerating and connected social, technological, ethical, economic, and ecological changes, pressures and tipping points on both a global scale and local scales. <br />The need to adapt, flourish and grow sustainably as opposed to respond inappropriately, get it wrong, collapse and go extinct. <br />“In the past few years, ever since uncertainty became our insistent twenty-first-century companion, leadership strategies have taken a great leap backward to the familiar territory of command and control”<br />Source: Wheatley, M.J., (2005), Finding our Way – Leadership for an Uncertain, Berrett-Koehler, San Francisco.<br />
The Aim<br />“Explore, make sense of, and understand complex situations and contexts so that we can act appropriately and create the conditions that will lead us to sustainable and progressive futures”<br />
Seeing Complexity<br />Source: Sole, R., Goodwin, B., (2000) Signs of Life – How complexity pervades Biology, Basic Books, New York.<br />
Ukiyo-e woodblock print - “The Great Wave” by Hokusai from his subscription series, “Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Fuji,” completed between 1826 and 1833.<br />
Location of the knowledge <br />Organic<br />Mechanical<br />Source: Snowden, D. and Stanbridge, P. (2004) The Landscape of Management: Creating the context for understanding social complexity, Emergence, Vol 6 1-2, pp. 140-148 <br />
Everything is not Complex<br />Complicated System<br />Interrelated parts.<br />Linear behaviour, Predictable.<br />Equal to the sum of its parts.<br />Complex System<br />Connected elements.<br />Non-Linear responses, unpredictable behaviour.<br />Positive and Negative feedback, spontaneous emergence.<br />Cannot be described by analysing the components alone. <br />Source: Cilliers, P. (1998) Complexity and postmodernism: Understanding complex systems, London and New York, Routledge<br />
Wicked Problems<br />US Federal Spending<br />www.deathandtaxes.com<br />“Tricare, a health care plan for 2.2 million military retirees, is separate from the VA. The premium is $470 a year, and there’s no co-pay, and the cost is $53 billion a year” <br />Alan Simpson <br />Co-chair deficit reduction commission <br />The war in Afghanistan<br />“When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war,” <br />General McChrystal<br />
Complexity Theory<br />A shift away from the predictability of classical science.<br />A fundamental world-view shift, new integrated multidisciplinary science, still emerging, with various origins, interpretations and definitions.<br />Time driven dynamical systems; that are “living”, learning, evolving and spontaneously self-organising.<br />Open to environmental interaction, nonlinear behaviors, unpredictable emergent phenomena.<br />The behavior of agents in Complex Adaptive Systems.<br />Emergence at the “edge of chaos”.<br />
Complexity in action<br />Robot powered by Physarum slime mould. Sources (17 June 2009) : <br />http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2006/feb/15/uknews.robots<br />Jazz Improvisation<br />Evolution of Manchester UK<br />Arab Spring Tipping Point <br />“If a revolution destroys a government, but the systematic patterns of thought that produced that government are left intact, then those patterns will repeat themselves… There’s so much talk about the system. And so little understanding.”<br />Robert Pirzig, <br />Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. <br />Flocking behaviour – 3D Boids: Source (17 June 2009) http://www.navgen.com/3d_boids/index.html<br />http://www.e-ir.info Publication “The Arab Spring of Discontent”<br />
Complex Adaptive System<br />Source (22 June 2009) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complex_adaptive_system<br />
Complex Adaptive Systems<br />Many interacting time driven agents, system wide emergence, learning and adaptation, self organising.<br />Rich short-range information exchange, with positive, negative, direct and indirect feedback.<br />Non-linear cause and effect, open to feeding on and exchanging energy from the environment. <br />Historical “memory” of the past influences current action and future evolution, seeking advantage for itself. <br />High energy evolution happens far from equilibrium at “edge of chaos” learning, low fitness leads to collapse. <br />Source: Cilliers, P. (1998) Complexity and postmodernism: Understanding complex systems, London and New York, Routledge<br />
What is a complex project ?<br />Responding to a catastrophic event or impending crisis.<br />Something small that may have large impacts.<br />Something creative we have not tried before.<br />Events forcing us to drastically change tack.<br />Innovation required to stay ahead of the pack.<br />A need to explore strategic alternatives.<br />Development of high performance innovative teams.<br />Opposing stakeholder forces and strong conflicts.<br />Carries lots of uncertainty and dynamical oscillations.<br />
The Anti-Problem</li></ul>Sources: Gray, D., Brown S., Macanufo, J., (2010) Game Storming – a Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers and Changemakers,, O-Reilly Media, Sebastopol, CA.<br />Hohmann, L., (2007), Innovation Games – Creating Breakthrough Products Through Collaborative Play, Addison-Wesley, Boston.<br />
3600 SWAT Teams<br />Radical co-location<br />Multi-skilled<br />Cross functional<br />Pod of 7 + or – 2 never 8<br />Leadership Emergence<br />Constraints and Freedoms<br />Resources and Tools<br />Self Organisation<br />Artifacts/Products<br />Patterns /Learning<br />
Strategy and approach<br />The objective of complexity thinking is to make sense of contexts and act adaptively to reach emergent simplicity.<br />Convert initial chaotic and complex starting conditions through contextual sense-making into progressively elaborated “simplified” strategies.<br />Understand the project systemically at first, create appropriate methodology that address components according to their profiles by applying models and tools to accelerate the velocity of understanding/simplification.<br />Remain vigilant by sensing for signals and patterns that may indicate approaching dynamical non-linear state changes that may require further systemic adaptation and asset/resource protection. <br />Delivery risk is lowest where understanding, certainty and simplicity is at its highest (but that’s no guarantee of anything).<br />