Contributing Editors Lynn Crawford, DBA, John R. Patton, PMP, Chris Stevens, PhD, and Terry M. Williams, PhD

Project Management Institute

Aspects of complexity: mAnAging projects in A

complex World

Editor in Chief Terry Cooke-Davies, PhD

Contributing Editors Lynn Crawford, DBA, John R. Patton, PMP,

Chris Stevens, PhD, and Terry M. Williams, PhD

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Aspects of complexity : managing projects in a complex world / editor in chief, Terry Cooke-Davies ; contributing editors, Lynn Crawford … [et al.]. p. cm. ISBN 978-1-935589-30-3 (pbk. : alk. paper) 1. Project management. I. Cooke-Davies, Terry, 1941- II. Crawford, Lynn. HD69.P75A77 2011 658.4’04—dc23

2011024450

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10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

iii

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments …………………………………………………………………………………….. v

Introduction: Managing Projects in a Complex World …………………………………vii Chris Stevens, John Patton, and Terry Cooke-Davies

Chapter 1: Complexity in Project Management and the Management of Complex Projects ……………………………………………………………………… 1

Terry Cooke-Davies

Part 1 – With Practitioners and Their Managers in Mind ……………. 15 Chapter 2: Managing Projects With High Complexity ………………………………… 17 Stephen Hayes and Daniel Bennett

Chapter 3: Tools for Complex Projects ……………………………………………………… 29 Kaye Remington and Julien Pollack

Chapter 4: Strategic Management: Developing Policies and Strategies ………… 41 Christoph Loch and Frederick C. Payne

Chapter 5: Fear of Flying ………………………………………………………………………….. 57 Stephen Carver and Harvey Maylor

Chapter 6: The Impact of Complexity on Project Cost and Schedule Estimates …………………………………………………………… 73

Dale Shermon

Chapter 7: Beyond Competence: Developing Managers of Complex Projects ……………………………………………………………………. 87

Lynn Crawford and Ed Hoffman

Part 2 – With Researchers and Students in Mind ……………………….. 99 Chapter 8: Human Behavior and Complexity …………………………………………… 101 Terry Cooke-Davies

Chapter 9: Controlling Chaos? The Value and the Challenges of Applying Complexity Theory to Project Management …………………………… 115

Kaye Remington and Roxanne Zolin

Chapter 10: Systems Thinking and the Systems Movement ……………………… 135 Peter Checkland and Terry Williams

Chapter 11: Systems Engineering and Project Management ………………………. 149 Andrew Daw

iv

Aspects of complexity: mAnAging projects in A complex World

Summary ……………………………………………………………………………… 169 Chapter 12: Toward a Coherent Research Agenda ……………………………………. 171 Terry Williams

Chapter 13: Toward Project Management 2.0 …………………………………………… 179 Terry Cooke-Davies

Contributors ………………………………………………………………………………………….. 189

v

Acknowledgments

This book owes a great deal to many people.

The presenters at each of the Research Open Working Sessions, who so gener- ously provided their experience and insights, and the participants who made the conversations so lively. The contributors who have provided such stimulating chap- ters. The contributing editors, whose wise advice and ready support helped to give the book both shape and substance. And finally, of course Project Management Institute for funding this project and its many staff who have made this publication possible.

My grateful thanks to you all. It has been a privilege and a pleasure to work with you on this project.

vii

Introduction

Managing Projects in a Complex World

Chris Stevens, John Patton, and Terry Cooke-Davies

�And�when�it�comes�to�solutions,�simple�is�better.�Elegant�is�better�still.�� Elegance�is�the�simplicity�found�on�the�far�side�of�complexity.�

Matthew May, 2007, p. 3

This book has been written with three different audiences in mind: people who manage programs and projects (practitioners), line managers in organizations to which programs and projects make a substantial contribution (managers), and members of the academic research community who have an interest in how com- plexity shapes and influences the practice of program and project management (re- searchers).

Chapter 1 will be of interest to all three audiences, because it summarizes a se- ries of dialogues between practitioners, managers, and researchers. These dialogues provided this book with its shape and led to the choice of topics in the remaining chapters of the book.

Increasingly in the world of business today, practitioners and managers find themselves potentially overwhelmed by the amount of complexity that they en- counter. Successful project and program managers in these situations have had a natural or learned proactive perspective of what needs to be done. For many, obtain- ing this valuable skill of thinking and acting holistically can be accelerated, but not substituted, by exogenous learning. However, for most, such skills are obtained through years of experience. This experience is given another “C” designation, meaning Craftsmanship rather than Complexity. Chapters 2 to 7 (Part 1 of this book) will focus primarily on the experiential learning of experts, often labeled the “practical” application of the topics covered from a research point of view in Chap- ters 8 to 11 (Part 2). Finally, in the two concluding chapters, the first 11 chapters will be mined for “nuggets” of insight that are then used to outline the implica- tions of the book as a whole for research (Chapter 12) and for management practice (Chapter 13).

Project managers in early documented achievements, such as the construction of monuments or biblical narratives, had to both think and practice their leader- ship systemically to be successful. Systems engineering has in the past 100 years evolved from a “hard” systems perspective to a professional discipline based on sys- tems thinking and practice. Project management is an important relation based on

viii

Aspects of complexity: mAnAging projects in A complex World

similar ideas, even though success is generally based on the “soft” systems aspects of managing people. All projects at some level can be viewed as complex, but for most project managers it is not only their understanding of the “how it will be de- livered” but “how they can manage it” that can be, and is often seen as “complex.”

Of “complex” projects and “complexity” as a term, it is clear that for most peo- ple when confronted with something they don’t understand, it will be considered as complicated. Where there are exponentially “complicated relationships” making up the whole, they may see it as complex.

Breaking programs or portfolios of work down into parts to be managed better has been a common and important practice for handling complicated situations. However, from a systemic perspective, this practice ignores all of the important relationships between those parts. As more parts such as subprojects are added, the relationships between them continue to expand exponentially, so perceived com- plexity rises.

During many large and long projects, change is ongoing and normal. Manag- ers need to be more holistic in the way they view changes and current situations, as today’s solutions have the potential to be tomorrow’s problems. For many to understand a situation with a systemic and holistic discipline, as a means for both perceiving and understanding, it becomes possible to manage around the adverse aspects of change, and indeed leverage the positive.

Now, let’s move from the consideration of the complicated to that of the truly complex. Part 1 brings together some of the practical perspectives of utilizing sys- tems theory and practice in the context of complex projects and their management.

Progress during the history of the human race has always been fraught with challenges. For many, there was little or no precedent to build upon. For many centuries, humans have wondered about and studied from earth what the rest of the universe contains, and how it came about. Progress and understanding were not initially the results of pure study and contemplation. The real adventures in space started through the development of weapons of war. They then progressed to putting astronauts into low earth orbit, then reaching out to the moon and finally deep space.

These achievements may be seen as progressive advancement of knowledge and application. The unknown and new complexities of each stage were better under- stood because they were based on the experience gained from earlier projects. In addition, in the most successful cases, each stage was preceded by a strategic focus (for example, the mission to the moon spearheaded by President John F. Kennedy). Using previous experience, plans were established for the moon landing and they became operational, resulting in a final achievement of the goal (Apollo 11 landed on the moon on 16 July 1969).

As Doctor Jon Whitty explained during the March 2008 PMI Research Working Session in Sydney, Australia, the “C” word for describing the unknown and new challenges should not be seen in the context of complexity. Rather, to achieve an outcome in such situations, we should consider them in the context of challenges of craftsmanship.

ix

introduction

Other presenters, at the same event, used complexity to refer to what appeared to be simple tasks, such as the refurbishment project of a local hotel, in contrast with building a large power station: (1) in another country on the other side of the world; (2) in the middle of an earthquake zone; and (3) using contractors from yet another distant country.

In another example, shoeing a horse was compared to building three advanced warships. In each case, one can learn some skills through an apprenticeship or ex- perimentation. In the case of the larger projects, one can contract in those skills, and use one’s experience in the leadership and dealing with large numbers of peo- ple, together with the experience gathered previously on similar projects.

Each one of the complex aspects of the simple projects was seen as such because they involved people, or, in the case of shoeing a horse, a large animal. The mutual conclusion was that it is the interaction with living sentient beings, rather than the technical issues of projects, which make a project complex. “It’s all about people,” said one of the leaders present.

Let us support this point by reflecting on NASA and their space projects. They suffered three very disastrous and public failures. It was determined that these failures were not just technical, even though the technology was admittedly com- plex. The failures were caused by failures in communications and interpersonal relationships.

Pellerin (2009, p. 11) stated that a Congressional investigation determined that between 80% and 95% of project failures are a result of either human or miscom- munication (which is still human) issues. People can clearly be seen as a, or the, critical component in the difference between ‘complicated’ and ‘complex’ projects. Furthermore, history has shown that irrespective of how those projects have been labeled, their success or failure will be due to the behavior of the people in the teams, as well as how they are managed and led.

Good leadership is common across all successful organizations. The ability to communicate and negotiate, to have integrity and people skills, and to be a proac- tive and systemic problem solver are all considered to be essential tributes to man- age projects.

Where Part 2 will provide the systemic foundation for consideration, Part 1 con- centrates on the context and practice of dealing with project complexity. As with all endeavors, albeit a program or a project, one needs to understand where we are going or what we want to achieve. What is the goal?

In the terms of that quote from Alice�in�Wonderland, as long as Alice didn’t care where she was going, but as long as she was going somewhere, then the Cheshire Cat’s answer was appropriate in that she would get somewhere, if she was to walk long enough (Carroll, 1865).

A similarly focused approach is not acceptable for most organizations. In any discipline or sector, commercial/not-for-profit, or public/private or government, there clearly needs to be a focus and strategy. This strategy must cascade down through portfolios, programs, projects, and knowing what tools are appropriate to help those who manage them with a high degree of complexity.

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