What's New?
 This Site
 Organizational Basics
 Systems Thoughts
 Business Applications
 Working Papers
 Social Issues
 Systems Links
 Consulting Links
 ST Class
 Libertarian Objections
 Liberal Moments(SM)
 Political & Economic Links

Get our Bulletin

Home > Business Applications
Workshop Report on Project Management Dynamics 10/23/04
by Bob Powell, 10/04/04
Printer-friendly page Printer page
Email Page Email article

Project Management Dynamics Workshop 10/23/04
Sponsored by the Project Management Institute, Pikes Peak Regional Chapter.

Here is the Workshop Report: (31K):
Ranked Influences Causing Project Failures with Participant Feedback/Comments

Workshop Overview
Projects are dynamically complex systems for which we must examine the whole, not just analyze the parts.

What you'll learn:

  • language of systems thinking and how to examine system structure
  • the systems structures that affect project success or failure
  • how critical aspects human nature can serve or sabotage projects
  • how teams can use a "strategy matrix" move to coordinated action using standard project management approaches
  • the barriers to long-term improvement that must be overcome to improve project management performance ... project management process improvement is a long-term endeavor
  • how to determine group consensus and facilitate groups to action
  • how systems structures that affect project management success also show up relative to some of our most pressing organizational, social and economic problems
  • how systems thinking is both philosophically fascinating and existentially practical

You'll have the opportunity in this longer session to explore this learning and exchange views with other, experienced project managers.

Project Management Dynamics Workshop Description

Projects are complex; large projects are very complex. They have both detail and dynamic complexity.

Detail Complexity:

Only a portion of project complexity is captured by considering "detail complexity," that is, analyzing projects as combinations of serial and parallel tasks using Gantt charts and PERT/CPM.

Dynamic Effects:

Project progress is actually iterative and management actions can feed back to affect other project elements, which is an aspect of "dynamic complexity." For example, standard project management approaches don't fully consider:

  • the quality of the work done, where quality is a function of the fraction of initially flawed work and determines the amount of required "rework,"
  • how the initially flawed work propagates errors into other project tasks,
  • how "rework discovery time" affects the dormant "undiscovered rework" ... work that is eventually discovered and becomes required "rework,"
  • the "side-effects" of overtime and rapid hiring and
  • the competing pressures of schedule, scope, cost and quality that, when squeezed, impact intangibles like morale and fatigue.

Dynamic Impact:

Initially, management actions may yield the expected positive behavior, but after a delay produce undesirable results. The problem is that, because of the delay, we often don't associate delayed negative results with our initial actions. These feedbacks all too often limit successful project completion or, worse yet, lead to project death spirals.

Dynamic Complexity and Feedback:

So a project is more than a problem to be solved; it's a dynamically complex "mess" of interdependent problems. For problems, root causes are independent and separable; we can divide and conquer. But with messes, root causes are interdependent feedback processes that often lead to surprising, counterintuitive results. For dynamically complex systems messes like projects, we must seek to understand behavior by examining the whole, instead of by analyzing the parts.

This workshop examines project dynamic complexity and the feedbacks that can affect project success or failure. It's an opportunity to learn how project teams can appreciate these effects and take action to promote project success, rather cause projects to fail. We'll review how to use a "strategy matrix" to move from causal loops and driving forces to coordinated action to improve project success using standard project management approaches.

There's an important side benefit of this workshop. The structure of projects is very rich. Many of the structures are also present in other situations in our personal lives, our organizations and society. We'll note and discuss many of these. We're helpless to properly address many of our most pressing organizational, social and economic problems if we don't begin to understand and use systems thinking.

See the Project Management Dynamics page for more specifics on what this workshop will cover.


Bob Powell has presented on project management dynamics twice at PMI meetings. He's taught courses in "Systems Thinking and Problem Solving" at a local university. His company, Continuous Improvement Associates (exponentialimprovement.com), uses the lens of systems thinking to help organizations facilitate groups to action, create exponential process improvement, and generate strategic alignment. The systems approach explicitly designs system feedbacks that foster improvement and defines measures that monitor that improvements are actually on track. He has held positions as manager of ASIC product engineering and ASIC CAD software integration in the semiconductor industry. Other systems work has included the dynamics of the sustainable computing, the unsustainability of offshoring U.S. jobs, economic clusters, and growth and sprawl. Bob's Ph.D. is in Physics from Case Western Reserve University and his MBA is from Florida Institute of Technology.

URL: http://www.exponentialimprovement.com/cms/pmi.shtml

Top of Page Top of Page Email this Article Email Article Printer

© 2003 Continuous Improvement Associates
Workshop Overview
Facilitating Group Action
Exponential Improvement
Create Strategic Focus
Making Strategic Choices
Project Management Dynamics
Workshop Report on Project Management Dynamics 10/23/04
ST Leadership
Human Resource Structures
Product Life Cycle