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How hard can it be?
Managerial complexity and
response in projects
Dr Harvey Maylor
PMPC Ltd and Said Business School
The challenge
Results consistent:
• >68% of projects failing
Major challenge for
organisations and nations:
• Capex - $18T...
Complexity – a crisis?
Time
Complexity / Capability
Complexity
Capability
Journey in complexity
• Late 1990s – complexity a
good thing, complexity
science, analogy.
• “Embrace complexity” (e.g.
Bo...
Identify
managerial
complexities
Actively
manage
complexities
Working framework
Complexity
assessment
tool
Resolve, reduce...
Project Complexity: TIPS
• Temporality: the assessment is valid only at the time
that it was made and for a limited period...
Academic Background
 Extensive work on understanding what ‘complexity’
means in the project/ programme context.
 Can be ...
Representing Complexities
11
Low
Medium
High
Structural
Complexity
Socio-Political
Complexity
Emergent
Complexity
Key
Proj...
Managing
Complexities
Resolve – make it go away
Reduce – make less severe
Run with it – work out response
Q. In 43 worksho...
Responding to Complexities
Responding to ComplexitiesComplexity response more
than this area?
Responding to
complexities:
project leadership and the
primary colours model
Influencer:
relationship-builder
Strategist:
...
Responding to complexities: people
We asked a group of 246 PMs these questions
“In your work, which of the 3
complexities ...
Future research:
Complexity and response
17
Complexity
of
Response
So what?
Complexities of projects
RRR
Complexity response
References:
Maylor, H., Turner, N. and Murray-Webster, R. (2013)...
How hard can it be?
Managerial complexity and
response in projects
Dr Harvey Maylor
PMPC Ltd and Said Business School
harv...
How hard can it be? Complexity and response in major projects
How hard can it be? Complexity and response in major projects
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How hard can it be? Complexity and response in major projects

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Dr. Harvey Maylor at Fusing the Project World conference at ITER Project on 4 September 2015

Harvey Maylor has been an academic and consultant for the past 23 years, is an Associate Fellow of Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford and a Visiting Fellow at Cranfield University.

He was previously Director of the International Centre for Programme Management at Cranfield, successfully delivering a $US4M programme of research with HP Enterprise Services, and before that, founding and running Cranfield’s MSc in Programme and Project Management.

His key skills are as a researcher, writer, innovator and teacher. As a researcher, his work is widely published in the top management journals and is highly cited. As a writer, his main text (Project Management) is currently Europe’s best-selling PM text, and has been translated into 5 different languages.

As an innovator, he developed a number of approaches with his research team at Cranfield for HP, including AdvantageHP, to enable the firm to gain competitive advantage from its programme and project activities.

As a teacher, he has recently received awards from Warwick Business School for his teaching on programmes at both Diploma and Executive MBA levels. He is a frequent keynote speaker at both academic and practitioner conferences, particularly on the topic of complexity [a major research interest since 2006].

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How hard can it be? Complexity and response in major projects

  1. 1. How hard can it be? Managerial complexity and response in projects Dr Harvey Maylor PMPC Ltd and Said Business School
  2. 2. The challenge Results consistent: • >68% of projects failing Major challenge for organisations and nations: • Capex - $18Trillion global fixed capital formation, 2013. • Strategies, initiatives, innovations • Revenue 4
  3. 3. Complexity – a crisis? Time Complexity / Capability Complexity Capability
  4. 4. Journey in complexity • Late 1990s – complexity a good thing, complexity science, analogy. • “Embrace complexity” (e.g. Boisot and Child, Org Sci, 1999) • Up to 2006 – CCPM, more standards. • 2006 on – what is complexity in projects and how do you manage complexity?
  5. 5. Identify managerial complexities Actively manage complexities Working framework Complexity assessment tool Resolve, reduce, run with Determine managerial response Processes, people, paradoxes
  6. 6. Project Complexity: TIPS • Temporality: the assessment is valid only at the time that it was made and for a limited period (e.g. a single phase or stage of a project into the future). • Interactive: the complexity is affected by the (in)actions of those responding to a perceived complexity. • Position in WBS: complexities differ depending on the level being considered (e.g. programme vs project vs task) • Subjective not objective – the assessment depends on individual attitude, experience, role, responsibility and perceived ability to influence.
  7. 7. Academic Background  Extensive work on understanding what ‘complexity’ means in the project/ programme context.  Can be summarised into 3 key dimensions: Structural complexities Socio-political complexities Emergent complexities
  8. 8. Representing Complexities 11 Low Medium High Structural Complexity Socio-Political Complexity Emergent Complexity Key Project 1 Project 2
  9. 9. Managing Complexities Resolve – make it go away Reduce – make less severe Run with it – work out response Q. In 43 workshops with a total of 1100 managers, what % of the identified complexities were they able to plan to resolve or reduce? A. 22% B. 52% C.82%
  10. 10. Responding to Complexities
  11. 11. Responding to ComplexitiesComplexity response more than this area?
  12. 12. Responding to complexities: project leadership and the primary colours model Influencer: relationship-builder Strategist: Proactive, adaptive S E S-P Manager / Operations deconstruct and solve
  13. 13. Responding to complexities: people We asked a group of 246 PMs these questions “In your work, which of the 3 complexities is the most difficult to manage?” “In your own formal training and development, which of the 3 complexities has received the most attention?” 16
  14. 14. Future research: Complexity and response 17 Complexity of Response
  15. 15. So what? Complexities of projects RRR Complexity response References: Maylor, H., Turner, N. and Murray-Webster, R. (2013), ‘How Hard Can It Be? Actively Managing the Complexity of Technology Projects,’ Research-Technology Management, (3*), Vol. 56, No. 4, pp. 45-51. Geraldi, J., Maylor, H. & Williams, T. (2011), “Now Let’s Make It Really Complex (Complicated): a systematic review of the complexities of projects,” International Journal of Operations and Production Management, (4*) Vol. 31, No. 9, pp. 966-990. Maylor, H., Vidgen, R. and Carver, S. (2008), “Managerial Complexity in Project-Based Operations: A Grounded Model and Its Implications for Practice,” Project Management Journal, (2*) Vol. 39 No.S1, pp. 15-26.
  16. 16. How hard can it be? Managerial complexity and response in projects Dr Harvey Maylor PMPC Ltd and Said Business School harvey@pmpc.co.uk / harvey.maylor@sbs.ox.ac.uk

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