Project Management

How to mitigate the risks of complexity

From the Manifesting Business Agility Blog
by
This blog concerns itself with organizations moving to business agility—the quick realization of value predictably and sustainably, and with high quality. It includes all aspects of this—from the business stakeholders through ops and support. Topics will be far-reaching but will mostly discuss FLEX, Flow, Lean-Thinking, Lean-Management, Theory of Constraints, Systems Thinking, Test-First and Agile.

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To say complexity stops us from knowing if something is going to be an improvement is like saying walls stop us even when doors are present in the walls. This attitude about complexity has us ignore available doors to try. We may not always go in the right direction but we can figure it out from what we learn after passing through the door.

Complexity means we must sometimes rely on emergence.

In knowledge work, far more insidious than complexity are chaotic (non-linear) events, the coupling of events and the lack of visibility. These can be readily controlled. Virtually all disasters due to complexity are caused by a combination of these four factors - complexity, chaotic events, coupling and lack of visibility

Think of disasters caused by complexity as gun powder blowing up. Gun powder consists of a fuel (charcoal), an oxidizer (saltpeter or niter), and a stabilizer (sulfur) to allow for a constant reaction. Complexity represents the fuel. If you don't provide the oxidizer and stabilizer then you won't get an explosion.

You don't need to manage complexity, you manage what makes complexity risky. Use feedback to mitigate the risk of chaotic events. Avoid coupling when possible but and always make it visible.

Posted on: October 24, 2020 11:08 AM | Permalink

Comments (4)

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Good point of view Al, I appreciate that.

Al, thinking about the complexity through that door to me is one of the fun parts. Scanning the strategic environment and working through what is taking place preferred environment, and identifying what may serve as the "oxidizer and stabilizer," as you put it for the opposite.

Dear Al,
Thanks for this, I love this statement "Complexity merely means we must sometimes rely on emergence"

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