PMPC Project Management Publishing & Consulting Limited How hard can it be? Actively managing complexity Dr Harvey Maylor
Overview • Introduction – ‘complexity’ and crisis • What makes projects complex to manage? • How can we actively manage complexities? • How can we respond to complexities? • So what and what now?
Journey in complexity • Late 1990s – complexity a good thing, complexity science, analogy. • Up to 2006 – CCPM, more standards. • 2006 on – what is complexity in projects and how do you manage complexity?
The complexity crisis Time Complexity / Capability Complexity Capability
Identify managerial complexities Actively manage complexities Working framework Complexity assessment tool Resolve, reduce, run with Determine managerial response Processes, people, paradoxes
Project complexity • Language: an analogy – not based in complexity science but in systems theory. • Subjective not objective • Like quality – it is hard to quantify and is something that is experienced. • Depends on individual attitude, experience, role, responsibility and perceived ability to influence. • Complexity art, not science.
What makes projects complex to manage? 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
Complexities • Structural complexity: − Number, size, financial scale, interdependencies, variety, pace, technology, breadth of scope, number of specialities, multiple locations/time-zones. • Socio-political complexity: − People, politics, stakeholder / sponsor commitment, resistance, shared understanding, fit, hidden agendas, conflicting priorities, transparency. • Emergent complexity: − Technological and commercial maturity and novelty, clarity of vision / goals, clear success criteria / benefits, previous experience, availability of information, unidentified stakeholders.
Determining the complexities Complexity Statement Agree? Stable? The vision and benefits from this work can be clearly articulated. Y Y The technology is familiar to us. N Y A schedule and resource plan can be clearly defined. N N The pace is achievable. N Y Sufficient people with the right skills are available. N N Work will be carried out in a single country / time- zone / language / currency Y N Structural Complexities (21) Note: Not a numerical score
Representing complexities Low Medium High Structural Complexity Socio-Political Complexity Emergent Complexity Key Project 1 Project 2
Managing complexities How to respond to the project / programme management complexities we face? How many of these are self-inflicted? Three ways of addressing each: Resolve – make it go away Reduce – make less severe Run with it – work out response
Responding to complexities: process 16 For ‘less-complex’ work, ‘standard’ responses are adequate (planning, resourcing etc.) To deal with project complexities, a more tailored and thoughtful approach is required.
Responding to complexities Structural complexity planning and control response. Socio-political complexity relational response. Emergent complexity risk / change / flexibility response. Is this the whole picture?
Responding to complexities
Responding to complexitiesComplexity response more than this area?
Responding to complexities: people The MLE approach Leader: relationship-builder • Understanding the complexities can be used to choose the right person to run a project - do you need a manager, leader or entrepreneur? Entrepreneur: adaptive, flexible Help in selecting the right manager for the task, based on: Skills, previous experience, or Development needs. S E S-P Manager: deconstruct and solve
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?”
Identify managerial complexities Actively manage complexities Summary Complexity assessment tool Resolve, reduce, run with Determine managerial response Processes, people, paradoxes
…and finally Complexity crisis – what crisis? • Sir Richard: Standard Foreign Office response in a time of crisis. In Stage One we say that nothing is going to happen. • Sir Humphrey: Stage Two, we say something may be going to happen but we should do nothing about it. • Sir Richard: Stage Three, we say that maybe we should do something about it, but there's nothing we can do. • Sir Humphrey: Stage Four, we say maybe there is something we could have done, but it's too late now. 23