As readers of this blog and our published papers would know I have a passing interest in complexity theory and its application to project management. This seems to be an expanding area of interest world wide.
Last night I was at the PMI Canberra Chapter presenting a summary of my paper ‘Scheduling in the Age of Complexity’ [download the paper] – another good reception for the ideas but more importantly several people in the audience were involved in parallel lines of enquiry. Possibly of most interest is the ideas of Graham Durant-Law see his blog at http://www.durantlaw.info.
Another interesting development is a new publication from PMI, Exploring the Complexity of Projects written by Svetlana Cicmil, Terry Cooke-Davies, Lynn Crawford and Kurt Richardson [see: http://www.pmi.org/Marketplace/Pages/Default.aspx] A quick skim suggests this is a comprehensive round up of the current state of complexity theory in project management. More on this once I have had a chance to read it.
What is gratifying is seeing the confusion created by the so called ‘College of Complex Project Managers’ and Prof. David Dombkins receding rapidly into obscurity. Rather than the confusion caused by the ‘college’ treating large complicated programs of work as a synonym for complexity theory (as Dombkins did in the original College manifesto); thought leaders world wide seem to be:
- Agreeing the difference between projects and programs [see: Understanding Programs and Projects]
- Appreciating the various ‘dimensions’ of a project [see: Projects aren’t Projects]
- Developing structures for differentiating and classifying projects [eg, Project Categorization Systems published by PMI http://www.pmi.org/Marketplace/Pages/Default.aspx]
- Recognising different dimensions of project uncertainty and complexity
– The ‘uncertainty’ view outlined by Eddie Obeng and Rodney Turner discussed in Projects aren’t Projects – Typology
– The ‘complexity’ view defined by David Snowden that draws on research into complex adaptive systems theory and explores the relationship between man, experience and context [see: The Cynefin framework]
The work on understanding complexity in project management has a long way to go and will undoubtedly be the subject of future blogs. Your contribution to the discussion will be welcome.