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Working Group B: What principles are important in dealing with complexity?

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  • Andrew Pyke
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    @mr-andrew-pyke
    Post count: 23
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    Team,

    I just wanted to let you know that I hadn’t forgotten my action from the last meeting, to outline a “monograph” (to borrow from the Australian Risk Policy Institute) on “Waking Up the CEO” (re-titled more politely).   My humble micro-business and less humble clients have kept me diverted, but I have it on my task list.  🙂

    Ian Mack
    Participant
    @ian-mack
    Post count: 68
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    Thanks Davin for the complexity nuances in the behaviour colour model.

     Stephen – Regarding your proposed question, I thought I had posted my thoughts weeks ago. It is repeated here: –> I do have three points and two questions: (1) I think we will need a lead-in that defines all the terms for clarity (e.g. complexity, design), (2) perhaps we should use ‘Project Team and/or Stakeholders’ and “Teamwork and/or Stakeholder Relations’, (3) perhaps we should also include education by adding it specifically as follows ‘Intensive Early Planning, Design and/or Education on Complexity Methods’ (and I am not sue ‘design’ should be included at all), (4) who would you see us sending this too, I assume not Fellows?, and (5) I feel stupid but I am not sure that I understand how one would select a letter inside a triangle, are they no more than an attempt to show where in the three factors your answer saw the most emphasis?” 

    That said, if you think it is too ‘leading’, feel free to ignore. I do not share your concern Stephen as we agreed on a question and if it is off the mark then all we have done is off the mark?

    One additional thought comes to mind. If we worry about the question we have posed for ourselves and by extension the questions we want to ask of others for feedback, perhaps we should present out question(s) and then say that ‘if you think that we have asked the wrong questions about why complex methods such as risk analysis and treatment  have not become more accepted and widespread across the globe in the past decade, tell us what you think may be holding back the broader pursuit of such methods in complex endeavours’. Just another prism to offer?

     Ian’

    Davin Shellshear
    SIG Chair
    @davin-shellshear
    Post count: 103
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    Hi Stephen,

    I really like the model you have put forward, and particularly appreciate using the triangulated questions – typical of sense maker. The triangle questions force respondents to think a lot more when answering. It seems just putting a cross on a line is too easy and does not encourage deep thought.

    I am also happy with the questions you have posed.

    What do others think – will the model work, do you have some suggestions to make it better, and how can we avoid letting our own paradigms colour our thinking and questions so we miss essential data?

    Cheers

    Davin

    Stephen Grey
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    @stephen-grey
    Post count: 86
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    These characteristic types are useful as are the questions that have been proposed to explore advice from people with experience

    I am still concerned that we are asking for advice framed by our own understanding of the challenges associated with having complexity acknowledged and taken seriously

    Can’t help feeling there will be matters we miss and responses we inadvertently influence due to our expectations being embedded in what we ask

    My attempt at a lightweight Sensemaker style approach might not hit the mar, judging by the absence of any feedback, but something that opens the door to unconditioned input from the target audience seems to be worth pursuing

    Davin Shellshear
    SIG Chair
    @davin-shellshear
    Post count: 103
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    Hi Ian,

    Your are correct, but as with complex projects, its not quite that simple. Project management teams need all the world views to do their job well – and the blue is essential to ensure good processes, boundaries, schedules, rules and structure are in place.

    The problem is that positive world views are needed – each world view has the potential to be expressed in positive, exaggerated and negative ways, and it is the negative and exaggerated aspects that often lead to risk issues. I have attached a small table to show the differences. As an example, a project needs positive red world view to enable timely decision making, focus and action. However, when red is expressed in the exaggerated aspect, we get power play, turf wars, ego gratification, aggression and bullying. All the things we don’t want. Equally, when red is expressed in the negative aspect, we will see inability to confront issues, decisions deferred again and again, lack of focus, undercurrents, sniping, backdoor politics, and issues fermenting and exploding at unpredictable times. Interestingly, as clients move more to collaborative contracts for Infrastructure and Services, I see a lot of negative red in the proposed leadership teams. I suspect that these attributes appear initially as ‘nice’ and ‘collaborative’ – but of course they are not.

    It is a straightforward matter to understand the behavioural predispositions of individuals and teams – the tools are well developed. I would point out that in projects, the behavioural predispositions of the team are normally the most important consideration, not just the behavioural predispositions of the project manager.

    This does not help us to approach Ministers and Seniors and wake them up, but it may help to understand some of the complexities in attempting to do that.

    Cheers

    Davin

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    Ian Mack
    Participant
    @ian-mack
    Post count: 68
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    An interesting short form paper, thanks for this behaviours set of concepts. I guess this suggests that the real problem children in adopting a complexity mindset and method set is probably the true blue folks, these being very common in the Private Sector I think. And I guess that means that, as part of a strategy to get organisations to embrace complexity, we need to coral the organisation’s Yellow and Orangs folks who can influence the true Blue decision-makers. Ian

    Davin Shellshear
    SIG Chair
    @davin-shellshear
    Post count: 103
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    Hi All,

    On a number of occasions we have been talking about world views as a significant factor in addressing our Group B topic. I thought I would share my understanding on this matter.

    A worldview or world-view is defined in Wikipedia as the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing the whole of the individual’s or society’s knowledge and point of view. A worldview can include natural philosophy; fundamental, existential, and normative postulates; or themes, values, emotions, and ethics.

    Different sources quote the 7 world-views (Theism, Atheism, Pantheism, Panentheism, Deism, Finite Godism, and Polytheism), the 4 world views (post-positivism, constructivism, advocacy/ participatory, and pragmatism), or even the 3 world-views (Honour-Shame, Guilt-Innocence, and Power-Fear), etc. The list goes on.

    I would like to suggest that world views are fundamentally important in addressing our topic, as Richard points out when talking about Weltanschauung.

    Unfortunately, the lists usually offered (above) are complex abstractions that offer little assistance in understanding how different people might respond to complexity in projects.

    From my experience over the last 15 years, working actively with world views to understand behavioural pre-dispositions, I would like to share the attached framework which was developed by Dr Claire Graves (1914-1986). I liken these world views to the prime colours – from which any colour can be derived. The framework of Graves allows any behavioural pre-disposition of individuals and groups to be derived as a mix of the primary world-views.

    I have attached a description of the world views as developed by Graves – for interest only.

    Analysis over 50 years shows that there an even distribution of world views across the population – there is no skewed difference based on gender, race, or any other demographic factors.

    I suggest that the world-views most likely to support a strong interest in project complexity are Yellow and Orange. Some world-views are likely to show little interest, or actively reject notions like complexity.

    My personal interest is in being able to understand behavioural risk in projects, and I have used this approach in several large infrastructure and services Alliances and Collaborative contracts across Australia.

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    Ian Mack
    Participant
    @ian-mack
    Post count: 68
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    Hi Richard and thanks for this post. I like the questions and am ready to try them out on the three other Canadian Fellows when we agree to proceed. – Ian

    Richard Barber
    Participant
    @richard-barber
    Post count: 57
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    Hi,

    We also have been considering asked for insights from ICCPM Fellows.   Here is a draft content of a possible email that ICCPM could send to them for us.  Please feel free to offers alternative words, edit etc.

    Dear ICCPM Fellow,

    The ICCPM Managing Risk in Complexity SIG has two working groups.  For up to date details you can go to the MRC SIG Forum on the ICCPM website.

    Working Group B is tackling the question “How can we “wake up” project leaders and stakeholders who are reluctant to accept or apply complexity methods and models.”

    We know that to get people to shift their views and or their behaviours, trust is important.  We also know that even when trust is present, individuals still may not (1) accept the need to work differently in complex environments or (2) they may accept the need but still not change their behaviours.

    In that context, we would value any thoughts, insights or questions you might have on one or both of the following questions:

    1. How can we best establish trust, or at least a willingness to engage with project leader or stakeholders who currently see the importance of accepting and managing complexity in projects differently than we do?
    2. Assuming that we can establish an effective relationship, what other barriers might prevent these project leader or stakeholders from moving, and how can we shift those barriers?

    We are looking forward to your responses, which can be sent to:

    MRC-SIG@ICCPM.com.

    Thank you,

    Davin Shellshear    Co-chair ICCPM MRC SIG

    Ian Mack
    Participant
    @ian-mack
    Post count: 68
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    Very interesting. I like the  question is general as it could provide much more information than what the WG is looking for, which ICCPM might wish to data mine.

    I do have three points and two questions: (1) I think we will need a lead-in that defines all the terms for clarity (e.g. complexity, design), (2) perhaps we should use ‘Project Team and/or Stakeholders’ and “Teamwork and/or Stakeholder Relations’, (3) perhaps we should also include education by adding it specifically as follows ‘Intensive Early Planning, Design and/or Education on Complexity Methods’ (and I am not sue ‘design’ should be included at all), (4) who would you see us sending this too, I assume not Fellows?, and (5) I feel stupid but I am not sure that I understand how one would select a letter inside a triangle, are they no more than an attempt to show where in the three factors your answer saw the most emphasis? Thanks Stephen – Ian

     

    Stephen Grey
    Participant
    @stephen-grey
    Post count: 86
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    I have drafted a mechanism for gathering input from people with experience of complex projects.

    The form of the survey might not be familiar to everyone. It is based on the ideas of Cognitive Edge and if it were to be used more widely would have to be implemented using their proprietary system but I believe a rough version in Survey Monkey can be very useful although the triangular signifiers are a lot more elegant in the CE system.

    The indirect approach it embodies can elicit inputs that would not otherwise arise. The WG is an opportunity to expose the method while hopefully generating some useful insights.

    The theory behind the approach is that the responses are led by what the participants feel is important rather than what we are interested in, so our inadvertent blinkers don’t limit the exercise.

    The triad signifiers elicit respondents’ priorities and concerns without telling them what we believe they should think about, except in so far as the labels on the signifiers raw their attention to specific terms and concepts. As opposed to a set of 0-10 scales for each of the factors mentioned here, the triads reduce the chance of getting simplistic responses such as everything being marked critical or scoring 5 down the middle for everything.

    Similarly the slider at the end offers a choice between two things that most people would want some of. Such mechanisms force a lot more thought to go into the response than “Rate these two factors between unimportant and very important”.

    I don’t know for sure if it will work with this cohort but I am confident it is worth a try.

    Finally, it is high level and short both because we are necessarily starting high level and a short survey is more likely to be answered than a long one.

    You can access the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ICCPM_WGB_V0

    It should allow multiple responses if you want to play with it.

    Please DO NOT release it outside this group until we have had a chance to discuss it at the next meeting.

    Steve

    Davin Shellshear
    SIG Chair
    @davin-shellshear
    Post count: 103
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    Thank you Ian for your comments on the discussion paper.

    I think trust is a difficult concept to address, and I suppose that is why there are so many views on the matter. I suspect that it is partially because trust is an emotional part of our being, not simply logic. Trying to get our heads around trust is a little like trying to nail jelly to the ceiling.

    I think we can all agree that trust is slow to grow, and fast to go. I don’t believe you can make or force trust, you can only create the environment in which it may, or may not, emerge. It’s not a switch.

    The group seems to have come to a common view that trust will be an essential ingredient in the cake we are trying to bake, and I think that Ian’s comment ‘If you don’t have trust with the person you wish to interview, don’t talk’ is spot on.

    So the question for us all is how will you go about establishing trust with those you wish to interview/ connect with/ influence?  Santhosh’s comments re ignorance, denial and perception are very relevant here.

    Can we draw on the credibility of Fellows to help in this regard? I suspect that we can, to an extent.

    I look forward to our ongoing discussion, and once again, thank you Ian for thoughtful comments as always.

    Cheers

    Davin

    Davin Shellshear
    SIG Chair
    @davin-shellshear
    Post count: 103
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    I have attached the transcribed notes from Working Group B meeting of 1st July 2021.

    I have asked ICCPM to change the spacing of our meetings to 3 weeks as agreed, so our next meeting will be on 22nd July.

    Cheers

    Davin Shellshear

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    Ian Mack
    Participant
    @ian-mack
    Post count: 68
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    I like the idea regarding approaching the Fellows on the matter of achieving trust. But my military background (38 years in the Canadian Armed Forces) I think leads me to a different place from the excellent paper on the matter that Davin has provided.

     When one goes into scenarios of life or death, trust is not based on creating a safe space. I would see the same situation when trying to get people to adopt a different mindset and tools to navigate complexity as they attempt to ‘satisfice’ the project’s objectives. This leads me to a different definition, which I would define as  (1) a pre-existing condition, (2) underpinning a relationship built on a legacy of of assured truth, and (3) one that delivers sufficient evidence and honest expectations, without over-promising or in our case over-simplifying the difficulty of defining the journey with certainty. Trust hopefully results in the subject giving you the benefit of the doubt based on your past record. And it is the lack of certainty and safety offered that I think creates the challenge when marketing new approaches amidst complexity. It is more a question of success based on avoiding as much hard to yourself and your team (or organisation) as possible?

     I have long been a fan of understanding the reason people resist new ideas once you have trust – these days defined by some in terms of resistance, reactance, emotions, effort and cognitive biases – the latter defined by the dozens in three categories. In that context, I found the paper useful  to my understanding, albeit in a peripheral way.

     Ian

    Davin Shellshear
    SIG Chair
    @davin-shellshear
    Post count: 103
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    In our meeting today, Ian referred to a paper titled ‘Persistent Challenges in UK Defence Equipment Acquisition’. The link to that paper is:

    https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RRA1174-1.html

    The paper referred to biases in defence acquisition:

    Defence acquisition programmes are prone to strong optimism bias……

    Cost estimators and decision makers expected to assess cost and risk do not always act ‘rationally’ but are instead subject to a variety of biases: anchoring and adjustment bias, availability bias, ambiguity aversion, framing bias and others.

    In another RAND paper titled ‘Impossible Certainty – Cost Risk Analysis for Air Force Systems’, RAND included the attached Table D.1 titled ‘Methods of Cost Assessment and Associated Potential Biases’

    Cheers

    Davin

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