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

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  • Ian Mack
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      @ian-mack
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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
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        @richard-barber
        Post count: 58
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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: 104
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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
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            @stephen-grey
            Post count: 101
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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: 142
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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: 142
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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
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                  @ian-mack
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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
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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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                    Davin Shellshear
                    SIG Chair
                      @davin-shellshear
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                      I thought that since we are talking about trust, and recognising the behavioural  basis of many of the sources of complexity, I would post a paper I put together talking about trust from a behavioural perspective. Hope you find it of interest. The paper was prepared a few years ago, so please excuse the old statistics presented.

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                      Stephen Grey
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                        @stephen-grey
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                        I think it would be useful to draft a question and pass it around to see what it prompts among us and whether we all see the same themes at work

                        Richard Barber
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                          @richard-barber
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                          As usual, todays meeting was a really insightful conversation.  I also liked that we were able to identify some actions to get on with between meetings.

                          Quite a few times “trust” was mentioned as being crucial.  I wonder if we can ask and answer the question “What does it take to enable or build sufficient trust with people who are not yet “woken up” for them (and or their organisation) to come on this journey?”    One suggestion from Ian was that we make use of the Fellows of ICCPM.  So how about we frame a single open question to be sent to ICCPM fellows about how to build the trust needed?   What is their experience?

                          If others think this is a decent idea, I’m happy to collaborate in developing the question and the process.

                          Ian Mack
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                            @ian-mack
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                            Thanks Stephen and Santosh. We really are talking many of the same issues already raised but recommending one do the organizational and powerful stakeholder assessment before launching a complexity methos marketing campaign.

                             

                            As an additional thought (spurred on by the ‘maverick’ comment in the paper)I rather wonder whether another method is to include the reluctant organizational stakeholders in the Risk Management system within the confidential stakeholder risk treatment module. One would then apply mitigating actions (as we have/are generating) while recording the issues/consequences  generated when stakeholders did not accept complex methods. If nothing else, it could protect the Risk Manager downstream and deliver a powerful case study to influence change for future projects.

                            Santhosh Therakam
                            Participant
                              @santhosh-therakam
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                              Thanks @stephen-grey for sharing the info on engaging people with complexity. The insights on client profile, pitfalls, success factors and strategies resonate with me. Top two hurdles, from my experience, in getting the client’s traction on engaging with complexity are a. Perception and being sceptical; and b. scared of being exposed and acknowledgement of their vulnerability.

                              Stephen Grey
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                                @stephen-grey
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                                The attached is a precis of some of the key points I extracted from a Cognitive Edge webinar on selling complexity based methods

                                Different context but many of the same concerns arise

                                2 pages only and fairly sparse

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                                Simon Springate
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                                  @springates
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                                  That was a good response from Collin which implies that complexity has a long way to go in convincing the world to actively consider it in Project Management.

                                  So perhaps we can use complexity in Risk Management (for projects) as a way of introducing complexity.  After all most people are mystified on how risk is calculated (its complicated) so we are already part way there on managing expectations.

                                  Perhaps a little tongue in cheek but still a serious thought – perhaps a survey to understand if complexity makes risk management ‘easier’ to understand?
                                  Simon

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