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The Stakeholder Management Perspective

to increase the Success Rate of Complex Projects


FEATURED PAPER

By Massimo Pirozzi

Rome, Italy

 



PROJECTS AND COMPLEXITY

Unicity is a foundational attribute of every project in all Project Management approaches: «each project is unique» (The International Organization for Standardization, 2012), «a project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result» (Project Management Institute, 2017), «a project is a unique, temporary, multi-disciplinary and organized endeavour to realize agreed deliverables within predefined requirements and constraints» (International Project management Association, 2015). This unicity derives from non-linear relations among scope, time, cost, quality, and stakeholders and, then, characterizes each project in terms of a certain level of inherent complexity. Additional complexity factors include number of different internal and external organizations involved, sources and complexity of technology required, sources of funding, external or internal customers, degree of customer involvement in the project, levels of risk (Archibald and Archibald, 2016). Therefore, facing projects complexity can be very hard: intrinsic nature of complexity, on the one hand, is dynamic and multidimensional, and its dimensions include scope management, contracting and procurement, leadership, human factors, stakeholders, logic, interfaces, schedule, risks (Pells, 2017), on the other, is characterized by a continuous trend to growth, that is valid, a fortiori, in large and major projects, and when spreading to program and/or portfolio domains.

A model which can be very helpful to face complexity, by supporting effectively decision-making processes, is the well-known Cynefin Framework, which have been created, and developed, by Dave Snowden, starting from early 2000s. Cynefin Framework is properly a Sense-Making Model based on observation, in which “data precede model”, rather than a theoretical Categorization Model, in which “model precedes data”: it individuates four domains which are characterized by different levels of complexity, i.e. Simple, Complicated, Complex, and Chaotic. Cynefin Model can be also applied to projects (Fig. 1), and, then, it can help to manage contexts of different complexities, in which we look for the causes that could lead to the effects of projects successes, as well as for the most effective project management actions to be taken.

The domains of Simple and Complicated are regarded as ordered. In the Simple domain, cause and effort relationships exist, are predictable, repeatable, self-evident, and can be determined in advance. The decision model is based on the unique best practice, and the most appropriate action path is sense – categorize – respond: communication is not present, only information is broadcasted, and the network of relations is irrelevant. Actually, no project belongs to the Simple domain, which is the domain of operations. On the other hand, in the Complicated domain, cause and effort relationships exist, but are not evident: the right answer requires the use of analytical methods, and the support of experts, and that is where project managers start to come in. The decision model is based either on one of the good practices, or on a combination of them, and the most appropriate action path is sense – analyze – respond: communication is mainly informative, and the network of relations is important. Complicated domain include all the so-called traditional, and a large part of the agile, projects: in these cases, the cause of project success is the fulfillment of stakeholder requirements (not always known and evident), which correspond to the accomplishment of project objectives.

The domains of Complex and Chaotic are regarded as unordered. In the Complex domain, cause and effort relationships are only obvious in hindsight, i.e. retrospectively, with unpredictable, emergent outcomes. The decision model is based on an emergent practice, and the most appropriate action path is probe – sense – respond: communication is mainly interactive, and the network of relations is fundamental. Complex domain includes, for example, value-driven and 2.0 projects: in these cases, the cause of project success is the satisfaction of stakeholder expectations, in terms of both business value to be delivered, and benefits to be achieved, which corresponds to the accomplishment of project goals. On the other hand, in the Chaotic domain, no cause and effort relationships can be determined, and quick actions that are finalized to target more stability are necessary. The decision model is based on a Novel Practice, and the most appropriate action path is act – sense – respond: also in this domain, communication is mainly interactive, and the network of relations is fundamental. In general, no project belongs to the Chaotic domain, which is the domain of continuous emergencies, and of crisis. Finally, it is very interesting to consider the peculiar Simple/Chaotic Boundary, since a “shortcut towards the chaos” may occur in possible dynamics: i.e., if we oversimplify projects, which, in any case, are either complicated or complex, and we try to manage them as “simple” operations, we will fall very soon, together with our projects, into an unmanageable chaos.

Fig.1 – Projects in Cynefin Framework (elaboration from Cognitive Edge)

Definitively, while in Complicated Projects the success factor is the satisfaction of stakeholder requirements, in Complex Projects the success factor is the satisfaction of both stakeholder requirements and stakeholder expectations: Stakeholder Management processes are, then, key, to achieve project success at various levels of complexity.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Massimo Pirozzi

Rome, Italy

 

 


Massimo Pirozzi,
MSc cum laude, Electronic Engineering, University of Rome “La Sapienza, Principal Consultant, Project Manager, and Educator. He is a Member and the Secretary of the Executive Board, a Member of the Scientific Committee, and an accredited Master Teacher, of the Istituto Italiano di Project Management (Italian Institute of Project Management). He is certified as a Professional Project Manager, as an Information Security Management Systems Lead Auditor, and as an International Mediator. He is a Researcher, a Lecturer, and an Author about Stakeholder Management, Relationship Management, Complex Projects Management, and Project Management X.0.  He has a wide experience in managing large and complex projects in international contexts, and in managing relations with public and private organizations, including multinational companies, small and medium-sized enterprises, research institutes, and non-profit organizations. He was also, for many years, a Top Manager in ICT Industry, and an Adjunct Professor in Organizational Psychology. He is registered as an Expert of the European Commission.

E-mail: [email protected]

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