Projects are probably the best example of the failure of current problem-solving methods to resolve complex problems. For the least 20 years (if not even more) majority (around 70%) of projects fail. Projects are creating the company’s future, therefore, there was a lot of emphasis to use different problem-solving and project methods to improve project’s execution and success. But, project success rate didn’t change during the last 20 years.
A project is a combined effort of a different and relatively few people to create new value to a bigger group of people. In their core, projects involved many people from many groups in any organization. Projects need many people and many more connections between them to be successful. Projects required coordination between all different experts and continuous awareness and support of all (or at least most) of the project’s future customers. In one word, complexity.
One of the main reason that people group and work together are the properties and abilities that a group of people can create, but individual members of the group can’t. We know this phenomenon as, the whole is greater than the sum of its part. One element that makes a project successful is the ability to create group properties from a temporary group of people set up to perform a project.
Although it’s evidence that people interactions, impacts and flows responsible for a success of a project, most people still believe that projects will be successful because of the ability of a few to perform above average. It still based on the simplistic scenarios from the wild west when the lonely hero or few heros saved the day. But, projects are not dealing with simplicity. Projects are dealing with increasing complexity, not just between people but also between people and technologies.
Project complexity increases as there are more diverse and autonomous elements taking part in the project. Diverse and autonomous participants create different types of interlinks and create a high level of uncertainty. Because of the uncertainty, it becomes impossible to predict what will be the future state of a project. If projects do not involve autonomous and diverse elements, they will be complicated projects, but not complex.
Although the high level of complexity and uncertainty of most of the project people still believe that they control the future states of a complex project, as if they are complicated or a simple project. This leads to several assumptions, mental models and decisions that instead of bringing control and stability reach the opposite and increase complexity to an even greater instability and entropy.
When people need to deal with the complexity of a project, they try to resolve problems by breaking complexity into smaller parts to simplify the problem. This process of reductionism ends up with a focus on groups and people. A focus that leads to finding problems in groups or with people and replacing those flawed elements, just to find out that the project ends up as another failure.
Over the years, we learned that there is another alternative to resolving project problems. We found out that a focus on the interlinks between all people and groups, that are part of the project or impacted by the project, gives a better picture. This picture shows different causes to projects problems than the classical problem resolving find out. Interactions, impacts and flows between people, groups and technologies depict flaws in the system that runs the project and not in the people and groups that execute the project. Resolving those systematic problems by changing policies, structure and management enables us to finish complex problems on time and on budget.
Focusing on interlinkes help people to realize that success of a project is the success of teams, not the success of few talented people. A success is a group success because anyone in the group had a certain contribution to the success of the whole. Take away a small contribution of a team member, and you’ll find out that the entire group will fail as a whole.
By studying interactions, impacts and flows, one gets a deep understanding of complexity and complexity behaviour. This information helps to understand the dynamics of complexity and complex systems. Understanding these dynamics helps to see different ways to lead projects to success without control and reductionism. A way that focuses on the result and enables extremely flexibility on who to achieve the goal.
Galaxies spend time and effort to build a simple framework that enable people to understand the system as a whole (by focusing on ilnerlinks), see different problems, and using new and more system approaches to resolve those problems. The framework and the accompanying toolsets teach complexity and show people how projects can be successfully managed from a complexity perspective.