Friday, May 9, 2014

Navigating Through Complexity

The complexity can be good or bad for businesses depending on your strategy and capability

Complexity has increased exponentially and has become the part of digital new normal. Imagine the complexity that comes in due to these characteristics (less structure, rules and regulations, diversity, volatility, ambiguity, unpredictability, lack of linearity and increased flux) working and impacting together. So the question is how to navigate it through, and what’re the best scenarios to manage such complexity?

There are unknown interactions and very high inner dynamics in complexity. It becomes complex if things do interact - in particular in the case of "non-linear" interaction, you can't separate things properly or you cannot predict the actual effect of interaction straightforwardly. A complex project is the one where you cannot use a straightforward logical approach, because of a high number of participating elements, vagueness, and uncertainty of information. Moreover, to measure the degree of complexity, you should consider various factors such as: number of parties, clarity of their interests and objectives, cultural, social and geographic diversity and disparity, skills of team, uniqueness of the project, demand for coordination, numbers on interfaces and levels of hierarchies, overlapping of tasks, variety of processes, methodologies and technologies, etc.. There is a scale to be used varying from "simple" to "very complex". You rate each element and, if a project reaches a certain level, then it is complex.

Typically look at complexity from a business impact perspective as well as from a solution perspective. Complexity usually involves early in the life-cycle and careful examination of numbers and types of stakeholders across the organization; the extent to which the project is considered to be either strategic or tactical; the extent to which the project will change or transform (target end-state and impact) the business; numbers of external dependencies; is the project part of a broader program of work; is the solution proven; to what extent will the solution need to be customized beyond 'vanilla'; how many resources will you need and to what extent are these resources available, particularly if they are to be ‘soured’ from within the business; and finally, what kind of governance regime the project needs to operate and deliver in. To be sure, the complexity in the project can be directly correlated to its difficulty. However, very complex projects that have been done several times and are managed by an experienced team may not be all that difficult.

Defining the level of complexity of a project would certainly vary on an individual basis. This would be based on one’s own expertise and capabilities. It is quite subjective and depends on the stakeholders including the project team. Projects of low complexity are those where experience and instincts take over and it becomes second nature. Complex projects require you to think beyond your instincts. The projects you thought were complex twenty years ago may now be rather simple. As a result, each person's definition of the complexity will change with more experience and as you are challenged at a higher level. Here's a number of attributes which identify higher levels of complexity: 
1). Number of points of integration. 
2). Number of highly influential, highly misaligned stakeholders. 
3). "Newness" of the scope and approach to the organization. 
4). Size of the project relative to the organization's project management maturity and whether or not the organization has ever managed a project of that scale before. 
5). Degree of inflexibility in project constraints, in the particular field, there may be technical factors that make additional complexity.

The complexity can be good or bad for businesses depending on your strategy and capability. Complexity Management is the methodology to minimize value-destroying complexity and efficiently control value-adding complexity in a cross-functional approach. And organizations must learn to navigate uncertainty and complexity via complexity mindset, innovate and adapt to increasingly changing digital realities.  


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