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Managing Complexity

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I conducted this workshop at PMI National Conference 2016 at Mumbai, 17 Nov

Published in: Leadership & Management
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Managing Complexity

  1. 1. MANAGING COMPLEXITY TathagatVarma Founder & CEO http://ThoughtLeadership.in
  2. 2. ABOUT ME • 1991: Ex-Computer Scientist (DRDO),Antarctic Researcher (16 months @ Indian station “Maitri”) • 1995: Hi-Tech Products (Siemens, Philips, Huawei, McAfee), Leader (NetScout,Yahoo!, [24]7 Innovation Labs) • 2014:Thought Leader, Strategy Consulting,Agility & Innovation Coach (5000+ trained), Public Speaker (200+ talks), Blogger (150+ blogs), Startup mentor (100+ startups), Visiting Faculty (5+ courses taught),Author (1 book published, 2 WIP)
  3. 3. REFLECTION #1 Rate your performance on last project, or last one year: 1. Disaster:Whatever we do, we never seem to win. Every project is "Dead on Arrival”… 2. Firefighting:We don’t really believe in planning, but somehow we are able to react. Met partial objectives but often at great cost… 3. Meticulous:Able to plan for anticipated changes and respond gracefully to “negative risks”. Met objectives reasonably well… 4. Strategic:Able to accommodate unanticipated changes and well-prepared to exploit “positive risks”. Exceeded objectives… 5. Futurist:Able to initiate significant change and disrupt the status quo. Created a new opportunity…
  4. 4. REFLECTION #1 • Why are you where you are? • How many $$$s are you bleeding? • What would it take for you to fix that?
  5. 5. WE ARE IN BIGTROUBLE! 65% Mega projects fail! 50%Software projects are challenged! 70% Change initiatives fail! 90% Startups fail! 80% NPDs fail!
  6. 6. POOR PERFORMANCE ISTHE NORM… PMI Pulse of the Profession, 2013 Standish Group, 2015
  7. 7. …WITH HUGE IMPACT PMI Pulse of the Profession, 2013
  8. 8. PMI PULSE OFTHE PROFESSION 2016
  9. 9. WHY?
  10. 10. HOW DO WE NORMALLY SOLVE PROBLEMS?
  11. 11. TYPICAL STEPS • Define:Articulate the problem • Reductionism: Breakdown into smaller components and known patterns • Creativity: Generate alternatives and potential solutions • Decision-making: Evaluate and select best ones • Project management: Implement solution(s)
  12. 12. REDUCTIONISM • The practice of analysing and describing a complex phenomenon in terms of its simple or fundamental constituents, especially when this is said to provide a sufficient explanation. • The whole is equal to sum of parts
  13. 13. REDUCTONISM VS HOLISM https://meiningera.wordpress.com/2011/10/20/reduction-vs-holism/
  14. 14. TRADITIONALVIEW Descartes held that non-human animals could be reductively explained as automata — De homine, 1662.
  15. 15. http://www.mgiobbi.com/2015_03_04_archive.html
  16. 16. THE ILLUSION OF REDUCTIONISM http://abstract-scientist.deviantart.com/art/The-illusion-of-reductionism-518557750
  17. 17. TRADITIONAL APPROACH Problem Structured Components Unstructured Components
  18. 18. STRUCTURED COMPONENTS WBS, PERT/CPM Charts Gantt Chart
  19. 19. UNSTRUCTURED COMPONENTS Work Buffer % $
  20. 20. PM IS BALANCINGTHE IRON TRIANGLE Quality Scope CostTime
  21. 21. REFLECTION #2 • Situation:You have been assigned to manage a new project (say, NPD, or an M&A, or a Change initiative, etc.) in a totally new domain, and your success depends on delivering world-class results. Project kick-offs in a month. How will you proceed? • Time: 5min
  22. 22. PMI ON COMPLEXITY
  23. 23. WHAT IS COMPLEXITY? • Wikipedia: Complexity describes the behaviour of a system or model whose components interact in multiple ways and follow local rules, meaning there is no reasonable higher instruction to define the various possible interactions. • Complexity is generally used to characterize something with many parts where those parts interact with each other in multiple ways, culminating in a higher order of emergence greater than the sum of its parts. Just like there is no absolute definition of "intelligence", there is no absolute definition of "complexity"; the only consensus among researchers is that there is no agreement about the specific definition of complexity. However, a characterization of what is complex is possible.
  24. 24. COMPLEX ADAPTIVE SYSTEMS (CAS) • A complex adaptive system is a "complex macroscopic collection" of relatively "similar and partially connected micro-structures" formed in order to adapt to the changing environment and increase its survivability as a macro-structure • They are complex in that they are dynamic networks of interactions, and their relationships are not aggregations of the individual static entities, i.e., the behavior of the ensemble is not predicted by the behavior of the components. • They are adaptive in that the individual and collective behavior mutate and self-organize corresponding to the change-initiating micro-event or collection of events. Wikipedia
  25. 25. COMPLEX ADAPTIVE SYSTEM • Melanie Mithcell: a system in which large networks of components with no central control and simple rules of operation give rise to complex collective behaviour, sophisticated information processing, and adaptation via learning or evolution. • a system that exhibits nontrivial emergent and self- organising behaviour
  26. 26. CHAOTIC + ORDER = CHAORDIC Any self-organizing, adaptive, nonlinear complex system, whether physical, biological, or social, the behavior of which exhibits characteristics of both order and chaos or loosely translated to business terminology. - Dee Hock
  27. 27. CHARACTERISTICS OF COMPLEX SYSTEMS Let’s study each of them…
  28. 28. SIMPLE AGENTS
  29. 29. LARGE NUMBER OF INTERACTING ELEMENTS
  30. 30. DECENTRALIZED
  31. 31. CONNECTED
  32. 32. FEEDBACK
  33. 33. SIMPLE RULES Boids Model (1987) 1. Collision avoidance 2. Velocity matching 3. Flock centering
  34. 34. SYNCHRONIZATION
  35. 35. SYNCHRONIZATION
  36. 36. COMPLEX COLLECTIVE BEHAVIOUR
  37. 37. RESILIENT
  38. 38. CHAOTIC / NON-LINEAR BEHAVIOUR
  39. 39. EMERGENCE / WHOLE IS GREATERTHAN SUM OF PARTS
  40. 40. UNPREDICTABLE / UNREPEATABLE
  41. 41. SELF-ORGANIZATION
  42. 42. SELF-ORGANIZATION • Self-organization is a process where some form of overall order or coordination arises out of the local interactions between smaller component parts of an initially disordered system. • The process of self-organization can be spontaneous, and it is not necessarily controlled by any auxiliary agent outside of the system. It is often triggered by random fluctuations that are amplified by positive feedback. • The resulting organization is wholly decentralized or distributed over all the components of the system.As such, the organization is typically robust and able to survive and, even, self-repair substantial damage or perturbations
  43. 43. ADAPTATION
  44. 44. REFLECTION #3 • Can you think of elements at work that display characteristics of complex systems? • Explain why you think they are “complex”? • Describe how you “manage” them currently?
  45. 45. SO, HOW COULD WE MANAGE COMPLEXITY? • From Predict to Understand • From Control to Influence • From Plan to Learn
  46. 46. CYNEFIN FRAMEWORK
  47. 47. “CYNEFIN” • Wikipedia: Cynefin is defined as the state of being influenced by multiple pasts of which we can only be partly aware: cultural, religious, geographic, tribal, etc. "It describes that relationship: the place of your birth and of your upbringing, the environment in which you live and to which you are naturally acclimatised." [5] or knowledge and sense of place that is passed down the generations. [6] Cynefin has been linked to the MaoriTūrangawaewae which means a place to stand. [7]
  48. 48. CYNEFIN FRAMEWORK • Wikipedia:The framework provides a typology of contexts that guides what sort of explanations or solutions might apply. It draws on research into complex adaptive systems theory, cognitive science, anthropology, and narrative patterns, as well as evolutionary psychology, to describe problems, situations, and systems. It "explores the relationship between man, experience, and context"[4] and proposes new approaches to communication, decision-making, policy-making, and knowledge management in complex social environments.
  49. 49. CYNEFIN FRAMEWORK • Three types of systems: ordered, complex and chaotic • Ordered divided into: obvious and complicated • Five domains Ordered Known Fact- based Un- Ordered Emergent Pattern- based
  50. 50. CYNEFIN FRAMEWORK • Sensemaking model where data proceeds framework; not a categorisation model: where framework proceeds data • Not a tool but a decision, analytic framework - doesn’t tell how to solve a problem but helps you pick the right approach • Initially used in knowledge management, cultural change and now used in several domains, including product development, organisational strategy and national security
  51. 51. SENSEMAKING “Sensemaking is the ability or attempt to make sense of an ambiguous situation. More exactly, sensemaking is the process of creating situational awareness and understanding in situations of high complexity or uncertainty in order to make decisions. It is “a motivated, continuous effort to understand connections (which can be among people, places, and events) in order to anticipate their trajectories and act effectively.” http://cognitive-edge.com/blog/what-is-sense-making/
  52. 52. OBVIOUS • Cause and Effect relationships • exist and self-evident • are predictable • and repeatable • Sense-Categorize-Respond • minimal expertise required • Apply best practice / single right answer • “Known-known” / “The Known” / Stability
  53. 53. COMPLICATED • Cause and Effect relationship • exists, but not evident • Sense-Analyze-Respond • requires expertise • analyse risks • a range of answers • device plan • Good practice / multiple right answers • “Known-Unknown” / “The Knowable”
  54. 54. COMPLEX • Cause and Effect relationship • only obvious in hindsight • unpredictable and • emergent outcomes • Probe-Sense-Respond • non-linear relationships • conduct safe-fail experiments, • Emergent Practice • “Unknown-Unknowns” / “The Unknowable”
  55. 55. CHAOTIC • Cause and Effect relationship • can't be determined at a system level • Act-Sense-Respond • first priority is to contain! • don’t look for perfect solution • move to another domain • Novel practice • “The Incoherent”
  56. 56. DISORDER • Not knowing which domain you are in! Causality unknown • People will revert to their own comfort zone in making a decision • Immediate priority is to move to one of the other domains
  57. 57. OBVIOUS / CHAOTIC CLIFF • Illusion of simplicity, might make you fall off the cliff into chaotic domain • Recovery from chaotic domain is very expensive • Think ofTitanic!
  58. 58. TOOLSTO MANAGE IN COMPLEX CONTEXT • Open up the discussion • Set barriers • Stimulate attractors • Encourage dissent and discovery • Manage starting conditions and monitor for emergence
  59. 59. REFLECTION #4 • Take the recent demonetisation initiative by the Govt. Use Cynefin framework to map elements in each of the five domains • Let’s discuss what strategies would you use to address the issues
  60. 60. RECAP • Complexity is all around us, and increasing! • Understanding of complex systems requires fundamentally different thinking. • Managing complexity requires first sensemaking, and then choosing appropriate methods. • Cynefin framework is a great tool for sense making.
  61. 61. REFERENCES • A Leader's Framework for Decision Making, https://hbr.org/2007/11/a-leaders- framework-for-decision-making • Complexity:AVery Short Introduction, John H. Holland, 2014 • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cynefin_Framework • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complex_adaptive_system • https://www.godaddy.com/garage/tech/process/cynefin-suggestive-framework- problem-solving/ • http://www.valuebasedprojectmanagement.com/sites/default/files/downloads/ Summary.pdf

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