Project Management, Systems Thinking & Complexity Panel discussion led by Johan Roos, SE, Dean and Managing Director Jönköping International Business School, on the second day of the 5th Global Peter Drucker Forum.
Johan Roos is joined by speaker, Dr. Terry Cooke-Davies, the Chair of Human Systems International, Philip R. Diab (JO) Chair, Board of Directors, Project Management Institute and David Hurst (UK) Owner at DKH Productions.
Phil: In projects the biggest areas of unpredictability are the knowledge workers. The more complex the project, the more we need knowledge workers. Good project managers ask the “what” and “how” questions. Great project managers ask the “why” question.
David: Corporate projects have been used by corporate oppression. Through experience in difficult contexts in the industry I have seen that leaders are developed by hardship and a common goal.
“You can’t herd cats, but they will hunt together!”
Terry: Our ability to develop and execute projects has not improved over the past 100 years. Humans have an ability to make things up and adapt as they go along, due to this ability, we don’t do all the calculations to begin with. The Olympic Games are a typical example of people underestimating the costs of projects.
David: How long is the coast line of the UK? This is almost impossible to fully answer in an accurate manner, because it is related to how precisely you measure. A strategic plan is designed at a certain scale from a macro viewpoint and once you get into the detail (like a coastline) the dimensions change.
Phil: Complexity sometimes arises, because you seemingly have simple problems yet it is the multitude of the issues that cause the problem. Qatar is facing this problem when organizing the World Cup.
Terry: It is the nature of man to try to control, but nature always responds with chaos. Leadership requires that we identify the challenges and ensure that everyone is doing the right things towards the common goal and not ducking the issues.
David: It is very difficult to tell people what to do because it is contextual.
Terry: The project leader and manager have to decide which information is communicated, that is not always easy. Many of the predictive tools are rational but we live in a non-rational world and defining the wrong content will lead to people being disappointed.
Phil: It is important to understand the context in which you work. The Middle East context is very different because systems and processes do not exist. This brings in very different constraints. As project leaders we need to find ways to get around complexity which requires speaking truth to power.
David: There is nothing as practical as a good theory. In that sense we have been working with the wrong assumption of human nature as we often assume that we are being rational yet were are in actual fact rationalizing. In the corporate world the rationality is a cloak for power and in some companies speaking the truth is not necessarily a safe thing to do.
We have got the notion of rationality backwards and therefore need to change behavior patterns. We need to revise our philosophical ideas to what it means to be human.
Terry: You need to understand where your project sits from slow and simple to fast and complex. You should know your people and how they work. If you do not you will not know if they are able to do what you require of them.
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Chair of Human Systems International
2008 Chair, Board of Directors, Project Management Institute
Owner, DKH Productions
Dean and Managing Director Jönköping International Business SchoolDr. Johan Roos is Dean and Managing Director of Jönköping International Business School (JIBS), where he also holds a professorship in strategy. He has two decades of work experience abroad as an internationally recognized scholar, and adviser in the field of strategy, innovation, and change. From 2009 to March 2011 he served as the President of Copenhagen Business School. Prior to his engagement at CBS, he held the endowed Bo Rydin and SCA Professor chair in strategy at the Stockholm School of Economics 2007-2009.