Preparing Project Managers for Disruption

“… in the real world, what we see as events are themselves the products of continuous processes that unfold over time, with no beginning and end, and that nothing is ever solely a cause or solely an effect.”[1]

Learning to manage the impact of disruption on the modern project ecosystem is a fundamental capability to deliver project success as we move into an ever interconnected world.

The industrial revolution of the late nineteenth century saw the creation of a modern world. The flowering domain of electrical engineering began exploring how advances in machinery could improve processes to increase efficiency, lower costs, simplifying workloads.  It was an era that allowed people to view the natural world as machine-like entities that you could understand by taking them apart and examining the components. The thinking from this era can be seen in the underlying theory of our project management tools, techniques and methods, founded on the nature of predictable outcomes, controlled environments and stable/accurate time, cost, quality and scope.

As technology continued to evolve, we saw the development of the digital revolution in the mid-twentieth century spurring the information age that radically changed (again) the world we live in.  This change though, was different. Rather than creating a more simplified, stable, predictable environment, the world became radically more dynamic, interconnected, and ambiguous, resulting from the effects of globalisation and the rise of constant emergence from the disruptive technological wave we are now riding.

“After centuries of machanization enabled economies… technology became a tool for moving beyond reduction in how we think.”[2]

The next transformational shift in technology from an ‘information age’ to a ‘knowledge age’ has inherently accelerated social and organisational change and expanded cultural diversity.  Technology represents the underpinning identifications of connections and solutions between parts of a project ecosystem, business, government, industries, and communities and how they all influence the functioning of the project system.  In this state, the project ecosystem can be cast as simultaneous, probabilistic and multi-causal, with forces for change and stability playing out at varying scales[3].  This complex multi-sector environmental development has consequently stalled project development, blown budgets or simply caused full project failure despite the best efforts of those involved.[4]

Adding to this new, uncertain and ambiguous project landscape is the additional change in the dynamics of the project system resulting from increased stakeholder involvement, and this is a central driver of project complexity.  Learning to manage the ever present ‘human elements’ in this interconnected project system, is a critical component to the successful delivery of complex project outcomes as,

“…The people involved, their behaviour and communication and the relationships they forge constitute the behaviour and combined culture of any organisation or project.”[5]

Understanding the interdependence between disruption, people and projects helps recognise the solutions required to enable project success in complex environments.   Numerous project reviews indicate that for projects to succeed, project teams must be enhanced and continually nurtured to provide a holistic approach to complex challenges in a collaborative, people orientated environment.

“…Managers are facing ever increasing complexity, change and diversity, and the solutions they have at their disposal to cope with these issues are inadequate. Too often managers are sold simple solutions to complex problems. These simple, quick-fix panaceas fail because they are not holistic or creative enough. They focus on parts of problem situations rather than the whole, they take little account of the interactions between parts, and they pander to the notion that there is one best solution that fits all circumstances.”[6]

ICCPM’s Certificate IV in Responding to Organisational Complexity, was custom designed based on  the latest research identifying the global skills gap in managing the complexities of 21st Century projects, and is mapped to the global Complex Project Manager Competency Standards. The course is built on the premise that project managers stand a greater chance of achieving outcomes if they adopt an approach that combines reductionism and holism: paying attention to the whole and the parts, understanding the parts and how they connect together. Targeted at experienced project professionals, the course builds on traditional project management tools and methodologies concentrating on cohort experience and peer learning to strengthen the capabilities required to manage cascading risk, competing and often conflicting priorities, sense making and problem solving in uncertain, ambiguous and emerging contexts and the leadership behaviours required in complex projects , in order to increase project success and achieve benefits realisation.

Catering to busy professionals the course is delivered over 6 months.  On successful completion of assessments, participants are awarded with a Nationally Recognised Qualification which qualifies for CPD points from AIPM and Engineers Australia. 

Our 2019 training calendar is out now! Find out more about our training and enrol in an upcoming course.

ICCPM’s Certificate IV in Responding to Organisational Complexity is an affordable and effective way to gain the requisite skills to be able respond to the challenges where conventional project management methodology alone is insufficient. This course is exclusive to ICCPM and funding support may be available to you to complete this course through the Centre for Defence Industry Capability, visit the CDIC website.

Image credit: Satoshi Kambayashi, The Economist

[1] Sastry, A. (2018). Systems Lessons of the Global Problematique: Valuing Connection. Journal of Design and Science.

[2] As above.

[3] As above.

[4] Remmington, K., (2011), Leading Complex Projects, Gower Publishing, UK

[5]  As above.

[6] Jackson, Michael C (2006). Creative holism: a critical systems approach to complex problem situations. Systems research and behavioral science, 23 (5), p. 647.