Thursday, 30 October 2008

What do we mean by ‘complex’? Step back from chaos - Harvey Maylor, Stephen Carver

A lot of complexity is added, it needn’t be there. Researched what this meant; managerial response was to identify some broad factors that can introduce complexity:

• mission,
• organisation,
• delivery,
• stakeholders,
• team.

We identify two dimensions to complexity: structural and dynamic dimensions.
Example: flying – want a journey to be boring, uneventful.
How do pilots do it? They plan everything, but spend little time flying, done on autopilot – just like projects should be! They’re there to deal with unplanned events – low structural and low dynamic dimensions.

If we introduce Air Traffic Control (ATC) to maximise use of airspace complexity changes. ATC is more of an art than a science, but a lot of science is used – complexity becomes low dynamic, high structural.

Introduce fighter pilot – lots of planning, uncertain outcomes – low structural, high dynamic.

Introduce ATC for military need to know what’s going on and make decisions on how to deal with situation – lone pilot quickly a dead pilot - know where your projects (own and enemy) are – but they’re moving all the time, high structural, high dynamic.

Do you have SROs who can deal with this? Takeoffs easy, landings difficult – landing projects the same anyone can start one. A good landing is one you can walk away from, a very good one is when you can use the plane again.

On an organisational level, we’d probably like our projects to fall in the low/low category, but as project managers we’re more likely to prefer the high/high categories – more challenging, more enjoyable. There’s a balance to strike.

In future, should be aiming to identify, manage and reduce complexity as we go along.

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