A complex project or situation deals in the ‘UNKNOWN UNKNOWN’, therefore to manage such projects exploring and experimenting approach is recommended with patience and creativity. “Managers are not confronted with problems that are independent of each other, but with dynamic situations that consist of complex systems of changing problem that interact with each other, I call such situations messes.” R.L. Ackoff wrote in his book ‘The Art of Problem Solving.’ Mess or complex situations generally categorize into STATIC Complexity – where there are too many variables to manage and DYNAMIC Complexity – where factors and variable might be less but speedy changes, feedback loops, evolution, self-organizing and changing environment make it difficult to comprehend it. In complex situation the relationship between cause and effect is not evident and can only be perceived in retrospect. Therefore exploration and experimentation are key techniques to establish a cause-effect relationship or rather sense a pattern. Owning to dynamic nature, involvement of too many variables and complex relationships – it further demands vigilance over longer time to correctly see the linkages and impact of introduced changes into the complex situation. This article focuses on how to decipher complex situations and organize them. Changing and influencing complex situations into intended direction is of equal or rather more importance however it is not covered here.
With so much uncertainty, complexity and risks, PMs are puzzled; they don’t know where to start , how to grasp and organize the situation within stipulated schedule and produce ‘matching’ or expected deliverables.
CONTEXT SETTING As a project or program manager, one of the daunting thing is to take the responsibility of complex project or simply a ‘mess’ and then it is expected of you to collect information, organize the things , seek common ground and kick start the realization. Though, it is easier said than done even for experienced PMs. These types of projects involve many different, connected and moving parts. Multiple Inter-dependencies, feedback loops and lack of knowledge furthers the difficulty at hand. New and emerging technologies, cross-functional projects with dispersed stakeholders, highly connected and evolving situations, implementation of complex government regulations, mergers, process-re-engineering etc., all fall under this category. With so much uncertainty, complexity and risks, PMs are puzzled; they don’t know where to start , how to grasp and organize the situation within stipulated schedule and produce ‘matching’ or expected deliverables. We will, in this article, try to answer these questions and provide a generic framework to successfully manage such
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Synergy June 2014, Page