Friday, December 23, 2011

Projectmanagement and systemsthinking

Everyone has the experience , that managing projects is not so easy. A lot of projects, as well in our professional live as in our family lives are not finished in time , cost more than budget, gives frustration because deadlines are missed by unexpected events and problems .
Sounds familiar hé!
When we closely look at these projects, the managing of it  can be compared with complex systems and the systems theory.
So , we will have a look:

-  Complex systems are structured by the interrelationships of his parts.The way the parts are connected and related , and how they interact will define the behavior of the system . It's not the parts on their own , but the relationships between them , that will define the behavior .
Also projects has a project manager, sponsor, people , processes, customers, vendors, communication , time .... but the unique and  the specific dynamics of the project will come from the way all these parts are interconnected and work together

-  A system is composed of elements , subsystems but belong also to a bigger system . The behavior of the system cannot be seen in isolation but is influenced by forces of his own elements , but also from the bigger system.
A project will also be part of a bigger strategic plan , with his strategic objectives and so changes in the plan , will change the project in objectives , shedule , time lines etc.

- the system has emergent properties , which are different from the parts. the emergent property comes from the relationships.
When something happens to a project for exp don't achieve deadlines , the fault is given to the project manager. Which is wrong : we have to look after the connections , and the more the connections are complex , the more unpredictable are the outcomes of the project.

-You can not analyse the system , by breaking it in parts , and look at each part separately. as such the system is loosing his properties. Also changes are creating side effects , which will not be seen if you look each part in isolation .
So also in projects , for exp changing a priority of a task in order to gain time , can initiate overtime for a other task . this can only be seen , if you look at the whole.

- After some time , systems will find themselves in a state of equilibrium  and will resist change . Small changes can induce big catastrophes  but delayed in time .
So also in projects , the results of changes as for exp bad communication, cutting budget etc can give after a certain long period  demotivating and lack of morale.

So , in all processes where human influence is important , the laws of systems are applicable!

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