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Complex project – or poorly scoped? - Dr Liz Varga


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Complex project – or poorly scoped? - Dr Liz Varga

  1. 1. "Complex project – or poorly scoped?" Dr Liz Varga 28th Nov 2013 APM - a PMC SIG conversation
  2. 2. Objectives  Present my definition of a complex project and when simple projects work  Demonstrate what has changed to make projects complex  Describe the consequences of complex projects  Explain how complexity science might help identify the causes of complexity  Suggest interventions to embrace complexity 2
  3. 3. A Complex Project  A simple project is one where no change arises in the project scope, its plan, its delivery, in the environment, and in the intended project outcomes. A complex project is otherwise. 3
  4. 4. A simple project  Relies on negative feedback which will maintain the status quo      Regulation Approval Monitoring Budget control … 4
  5. 5. How have projects stayed the same?     Deliverables and work packages Schedules and dependencies Risks and Issues Change Control 5
  6. 6. How have projects changed?  Scale and multi-disciplinary scope  different and more: skills and capacity 6
  7. 7. How have projects changed?  Resource management  competing priorities 7
  8. 8. How have projects changed?  Stakeholder management  transparency and influence 8
  9. 9. How have projects changed?  Rapid context change (political, economic, social, technological, en vironmental)  Creating challenge to deliver initial objectives 9
  10. 10. How have projects changed?  Integrated systems  Overlapping decision-support tools and dependency; information overload 10
  11. 11. Outcomes of these changes:  Loss of control and ambiguity  Networked system with inter-dependencies and autonomy 11
  12. 12. Outcomes of these changes:  Loss of purpose Exogenous events can and do have impact (HBR, 2011, Learning to live with complexity)  Changing environment creates demands for new objectives, project pace and objectives change 12
  13. 13. Outcomes of these changes:  Predicted outcomes fail to materialize  Basis of business cases is ‘ceteris paribus’ but inter-connections and innovations lead to nonlinearities The vital thing to know about the great monetary experiments began in 2008 – now underway in Japan, Europe, and America — is that these are experiments. There are no clear precedents, and certainly no successful precedents. Even the conditions are unique: stratospheric debt levels (both public and private) — aging populations — and a global financial system like nothing before. 13
  14. 14. Causes of complexity  Socio-economic systems are open  Projects ‘meddle’ with the dynamic structures which are in place: during planning, construction, delivery and operation 14
  15. 15. Addressing complexity: Don’t be surprised  Inter-connectivity gives rise to multiple feedback loops which create emergent, nonlinear outcomes. 15
  16. 16. Addressing complexity: Collaborate  Globalization is just another system! 16
  17. 17. Addressing complexity: Resources are limited  Recognize limited resources: reuse, share, etc. 17
  18. 18. Addressing complexity: Expect to change  Objectives, scope, outcomes need continuous reevaluation because the effects of non-linearities can’t be accurately predicted 18
  19. 19. Addressing complexity: Innovate  Be diverse, innovate and take opportunities: importance of knowledge and learning and creating a vision of the future 19
  20. 20. Addressing complexity – plan for survival Principle Interdependence Cyclical Flow of Resources Partnership and Cooperation Flexibility Diversity Description All members of an ecological community are connected in a vast and intricate network of relationships, the web of life via multiple feedback loops that create non-linear patterns of response Nutrients are recycled so that the waste of one species becomes food for another, or conversely, the outputs of one market-driven entity may threaten the survival of another In co-evolution in which the adaptations of multiple species are mutually interdependent Continual adjustment to feedback in response to constantly changing conditions Involving pluralistic resilience in the sense that a “diverse ecosystem” tends to contain “many species with overlapping ecological functions that can partially replace one another”. 20
  21. 21. "Complex project - or poorly scoped?" Dr Liz Varga 28th Nov 2013 APM - a PMC SIG conversation