Are Your Projects Suffering from Self-Inflicted Complexity?

Michael R. Wood is a Business Process Improvement & IT Strategist Independent Consultant. He is creator of the business process-improvement methodology called HELIX and founder of The Natural Intelligence Group, a strategy, process improvement and technology consulting company. He is also a CPA, has served as an Adjunct Professor in Pepperdine's Management MBA program, an Associate Professor at California Lutheran University, and on the boards of numerous professional organizations. Mr. Wood is a sought after presenter of HELIX workshops and seminars in both the U.S. and Europe.

Managing projects has its own natural set of complexities. Managing interdependent and complex tasks, sharing critical resources, navigating the often politically charged waters of stakeholder relationship management, and complying with frameworks and protocols is hard enough. So why do so many project managers impose self-inflicted complexity on their projects instead of finding ways to simplify, simplify, simplify? I believe that few would ever do it on purpose. Things just get away from them and they get caught up in the flow and don’t know how to swim to safety.

There are a number of reasons designing complexity out of the project management process is important to success. First of all, complex things are difficult to explain, thus the response “It’s complicated” is so often heard (as if that excuses you from the explanation process). When explanations feel complicated, they are rarely believed—and that erodes trust, one of the project manager’s primary currencies for success.

Next, by their nature, complicated mechanisms and processes tend to break down more often than simple ones—and that adds time, cost, risk and effort to everything. The fewer the moving parts, the more reliable and predictable the outcome. The reasons go on, but the message is clear: Simply put, complicated = bad, and simple = good.

Designing …

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