DISCOVERY | NETWORK | SUCCESS

Research Support Program

Contribute to the growing body of knowledge.

ABOUT

An important part of fulfilling ICCPM’s mandate to build organisational capability in complex project management, is encouraging research that furthers the body of knowledge and supporting the translation of this research into positive impact.

The ICCPM Research Support Program connects researchers and practitioners globally. It helps researchers gather the empirical evidence they require to further the body of knowledge in complex project management and it helps practitioners access current research that will help them improve project performance. We hope you will use this platform to share information and be an active participant for the benefit of the profession and the performance of complex projects.

CURRENT RESEARCH

About the Researcher: Warren Black

Warren is currently engaged in a higher degree in research (PhD) program at the Queensland University of Technology, whereby he is Investigating a Systems Thinking Approach To Controlling Risks within Complex Projects.

Warren is an Engineer, Risk Professional and Complex Systems’ Specialist, who has particular interest in understanding how the complexity sciences may offer a better means to controlling disruptive phenomena within complex organisations. He consults to industry on how to improve Governance, Risk & Assurance practices so that they may reflect not only the degree of investment at risk, but also the specific complexities in play.

Research Background
Solving a 70-year-old industry problem

Projects globally continue to get larger, more expensive, more expansive, more challenging and ultimately more complex.

Unfortunately… large-scaled, capital intensive and technically intricate projects (aka complex projects) fail to meet their investor sanctioned cost, schedule and benefit objectives more than 70% of the time. A hurdle rate which has been well published and proven.

This includes; 9 of every 10 mega infrastructure projects, 5 of every 6 complex technology implementations, 4 of every 5 large dams, 3 of every 5 major road programs, 9 of every 10 major rail builds and so on. In fact, abnormally high failure rates have been observed across every major project sector, technical class and investment type with no demonstrable improvement for at least the past 70 years.

These observations are particularly concerning for the formal discipline of project risk management as this specific discipline has long been hailed by both industry and academia as being critical to a project’s ability to successfully meet its’ objectives. Such disproportionally high complex project failure rates however suggest that the traditionally accepted, project risk management practices have been mostly ineffective in helping complex projects to succeed.

Clearly new thinking and methods are required.

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ONLINE SURVEY

About the Webinar

On 25 February 2021, ICCPM will host a FREE webinar with Warren Black. The webinar will discuss some of the challenges of conventional risk management methods in project environments of advanced complexity, and specifically how adopting a systems thinking approach to project risk management may help to better address such challenges.

WEBINAR PAGE

Taking a People-Centric Approach to Improving Project Success

About the Researcher: Paul Myers

Paul is a mature-age 3rd year PhD student. Having practised the science and art of project management for 40 years in multiple States, Countries, industries and disciplines, he brings a wealth of understanding of PM practice to his academic studies. There are few who cannot benefit from exposure to Paul’s knowledge, experience and wisdom gained by successfully delivering many landmark projects, including megaprojects.

Research Background

It is well known that projects typically do not attain high average success rates and that to achieve an increased rate of success remains challenging. Flyvbjerg and Sunstein (2016) report an average cost overrun of 39% on a database of over 2,060 major projects across 103 Countries and six continents. Worse, some industry studies suggest that there has only been a modest improvement in the past several decades.

There is increasing evidence that the common thread in project failure is human behaviours with many pointing to project governance teams as well as behavioural biases in decision-making and Complexity, notwithstanding the project team and leadership in general.

Developing a better understanding of how people can be empowered and leveraged to improve project controllability is fundamental to finding a way forward to improving project success rates. This means re-imaging project management through a different ‘people-centric’ lens.

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Research Objectives

1.1 Problem Model

Building a problem model that represents the real world is fundamental to determining a solution model. To be successful, the problem model must take a holistic approach covering the full span of control, including commercial boundaries, decision-making biases, goal-conflicts, power in the relationships and project system impairments exhibited by people. In other words, represent the ‘worldview’.

Another aspect to be considered are the conditions necessary and sufficient to drive project success. Addressing success drivers using a suite of ‘dominant factors’ that when taken together, are both necessary and sufficient for success. The idea of ‘dominant factors’ is forward-looking. They address the critical matters that are needed to drive success from the start of the project. This approach contrasts with root cause analysis used in hindsight to determine (often singularly) what went wrong after the fact. The concept of dominant factors allows for the fact that they may exist as a blend and, as to which factors dominant a project at any point in time, depends on a wide range of circumstances.

1.2 Solution Model

As suggested above a complete project system that brings into play the many aspects of the problem model, including internal and external commercial boundaries that cover the full span of control is required. A baseline system model of current practice that uses the same thinking process can then be created for comparison. The two models created by the author to date are starkly different from each other, which demonstrates that a very promising line of enquiry is afoot. The model representing current day practice largely operates as a serial suite of open-loop control systems existing within each contributing organisation while the model built for study purposes is a holistic, collaborative closed-loop control system that can operate in near real-time. Feedback to address the range of dominant factors is applied as feedback signals to the system. The occurrence of risk events, being a disturbance to the project system, is catered for within the solution model, but this time with both feed-forward and feedback signals.

Call to Interested Parties

The first to solve the problem of how to move the project success ‘dial’ significantly in a positive direction is likely to be able to assert a significant competitive advantage over their commercial rivals.

If your organisation struggles with project delivery, is interested in improving delivery success rates, is desirous of developing a commercial market advantage, or just improving stakeholder value, please contact the author.

Contact Details

If your organisation would benefit from Paul’s studies and would like to participate for mutual learning, please contact Paul directly:

TERMS OF REFERENCE

Learn the Terms of Reference of the ICCPM Research Program.

RESEARCHER APPLICATION FORM

Apply to circulate your survey or research request via ICCPM. Connect with a global network of project professionals and academics dedicated to learning more about complexity. An active ICCPM Membership is required.

TERMS OF REFERENCE
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