The High Impact PMO



How do complexity sciences, indirect strategies and human dynamics advance project management at new levels of performance ?



Desert, Meditation, and Preparation

Friends, you regularly ask me about my recent silence. Confinement is a time of desert, meditation and preparation.

Here are the 5 books I am (re)reading and studying in greater depth during this period:

  • The Dao of Capital and Austrian Investing in a Distorted World,
  • The Black Swan and The Impact of the Highly Improbable,
  • Antifragile and Things That Gain from Disorder,
  • Skin in the Game and Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life,
  • and last but not least To the Priests, Our Lady’s Beloved Sons.

My eternal gratitude to their wonderful authors.

And take care of you and your loved ones.

Philippe

There is no harder work than not working

“There is no harder work than not working.” Years ago, I read this sentence from Guigues[1], one of the first Carthusian priors. It never quit me since then. Which life never goes through times of desert and dereliction? May this sentence of wisdom help you today during this worldwide long and total confinement period. Here is a full text you may also want to read and keep deep in your heart.


“The dweller in cell should be diligently and carefully on his guard against contriving or accepting occasions for going out, other than those normally prescribed; rather, let him consider the cell as as necessary for his salvation and life, as water for fish and the sheepfold for sheep.

For if he gets into the habit of going out of cell frequently and for trivial reasons it will quickly become hateful to him; as Augustine expressed it, “For lovers of this world, there is no harder work than not working.”

On the other hand, the longer he lives in cell, the more gladly will he do so, as long as he occupies himself in it usefully and in an orderly manner, reading, writing, reciting psalms, praying, meditating, contemplating and working.

Let him make a practice of resorting, from time to time, to a tranquil listening of the heart, that allows God to enter through all its doors and passages. In this way with God’s help, he will avoid the dangers that often lie in wait for the solitary; such as following too easy a path in cell and meriting to be numbered among the lukewarm.

http://www.chartreux.org/en/texts/statutes-book-1.php

Photo: Buckfast Abbaye

[1] GUIGUES LE CHARTREUX, Méditations, 50 (SC, 308, 120

Insights for PMOs in a VUCA World

Succeeding as a PMO in a complex and volatile world is not easy. So, thanks to my friend Ken Martin, here are a few insights for PMOs in a VUCA world.

Ken, among many other exciting things, publishes great one-page descriptions of many different roles. You can find them on his LinkedIn profile.

Ken suggested recently that I create a one-page list of insights dedicated to PMOs thriving in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous) environment.

So here is the result. It is a summary of my key insights everyone engaged in portfolio, program or project management should study and solve to make it better succeed.

You can find it also on my Linkedin’s profile here and on Ken’s profile here.

You will obviously recognize many tips of my book “The High-Impact PMO” published in 2017 and updated several times since then.

You can also retrieve some of these insights in a former article here.

I will love to receive any comment, knowledge, or contact from you.

Warm regards

Philippe

ONE TINY SPARK

Staffing a Transformation Program

In the sciences, the authority of thousands of opinions is not worth as much as one tiny spark of reason in an individual man” How does this quote from Galileo Galilei apply to transformation programs? Staffing a transformation program requires a very specific type of strategy. First, there is a need for contributors who are external to the system to transform. Secondly, these contributors can be of two radically different types. The consultants and a champion are these two types that maximize your chance of success. The former corresponds to a statistical thin tail (close to the mean, small impact, the latter to a fat tail (far from the mean, high impact).

The difference between thin and fat tails matters in staffing a transformation.

With fat tailed distributions, extreme events (e.g. a champion joining the transformation program team) away from the center of the distribution (i.e. the organization’s population) create a strong impact on the final performance.

Not so in thin tail distributions (e.g. a group of consultants in the midst of the organization’s population) where you need a number of events (i.e. a number of different consulting teams) to achieve a visible level of impact.

An example of application in an organization is the decision to resource complex transformation programs with two separate (competing?) teams: a traditional consulting team and a single proven champion of the domain.

Why consultants and a champion? Simply because the transformation of a system needs an exchange of energy or information from within and with its outside world[1] to transform itself.

For example, transforming wheat and sugar into a muffin needs heat. And a caterpillar first stuffs itself with leaves, then digests itself and morphs into a butterfly.

This is what consultants and / or champions hired from outside do.

Here is a story explaining the consequences of such a choice.

An aerospace manufacturer had to dramatically and rapidly increase its competitiveness.

The board of directors launched a competitiveness transformation program.

Then, the directors formed a transformation program team with two separate arms.

One was a team made of management consultants (with a capability of, say, X, relatively above the existing organization’s capabilities).

The other one was a just-retired senior executive of the manufacturer’s top competitor (with a capability of, say, 2 X).

The consulting team

On one hand, the consulting team had twelve more or less junior individuals and a senior manager. They were all brilliant MBAs de facto structured around the consulting firm famous toolbox. Adding (or subtracting) a new consultant would not drastically change the consulting team contribution. Nor would this single consulting team impact drastically change the organization’s performance (say f(X)).

This arm of the program is the statistical domain of the thin tail.

The probability of hiring consultants higher than X twice in a row is greater than hiring them once with a capability higher than 2 X.

No single change in the consulting team resources could really modify their impact on the company’s performance. To strongly modify the resulting performance, you need a number of such consulting teams (associated with their high corresponding cost).

The champion

On the other hand, the former senior executive was a champion with a proven success in the domain. He had a level (2 X) of experience and knowledge well above the consulting team level. Plus, his seniority gave him a strong influence on the aerospace manufacturer leadership team. As a consequence, he offered an exceptional opportunity to increase significantly the level of performance (f(2 X)) of the company.

This arm of the program is the statistical domain of the fat tail.

With fat tailed distributions, extreme events (2 X) away from the center of the distribution play a very large role. The events in a fat tail may not be more frequent, but their consequences are much bigger.

The benefits

In my story, while the consultants got bogged down in number crunching and powerpoint presentations, the champion identified a weakness in the development of satellite antennas.

He simply proposed to focus on the antenna design as a primary driver of competitiveness. This single action was going to optimize the need of power necessary to cover a specific surface on the earth. Decreasing the need of power strongly reduces the global weight of the satellite. And a lighter satellite reduces the cost of its launch and its placement in orbit.

As a result, the champion identified a well-known mathematician, the best in this domain. And he recommended that we hire him.

Here, the probability of sampling higher than 2X once (with the antenna expert) is greater than the probability of sampling higher than X twice in a row. As a result, the champion can play a disproportionately large role in determining the new level of performance with a single high-impact event.

The counterpart

Of course, there is a counterpart to this resourcing strategy. The story ended very well. Yet it could have been deceptive.

For example, our famous champion used to fly (First Class) every weekend back home. One of those trips ended badly. Our champion had to spend a week in the hospital. He fortunately recovered quickly and went back to work.

Under fat tails, wrong choices (e.g. too frequent intercontinental travel) or mistakes (the wrong champion) can be terminal. Under thin tails, they can generate great learning experiences (e.g. visiting France during the weekends or hiring different consultants). The consultants and a champion are very complementary.

Key takeaway: a dual-mode transformation program resourcing strategy

There is a key takeaway though. This takeaway is that complex program leaders may have interest to use a dual-mode strategy in resourcing their program.

One mode relies on thin tail distributions with a number of traditional rather average-level people, the other one on fat tails with a recognized champion of the domain.

Again, the consultants and a champion are an excellent source of success in complex transformations.

Any comments? Here or on LinkedIn

Warmly

Philippe

You can also read some of my most successful articles here:

High-Impact PMO

[1] Read my articles about complex dissipative systems, for instance here.

PMO or TMO? 3 Key Differences

Do You Need a PMO or a TMO?

Everyone knows what the various types of PMO generally do. Yet, following the current fad for “business transformations”, many change the name of their PMO into TMO, Transformation Management Office. This misleads everyone since a transformation is very different from mere projects or programs. Accompanying a transformation is indeed radically different from managing a project.

A TMO should obviously play some or all of the traditional PMO roles. After all, transformations present many of the characteristics of large and complex programs. However, because of their characteristics of complexity, transformations result in the emergence of “something” that cannot be inferred from the mere characteristics of the components initially concerned by the transformation. A PMO knows how to support a project delivering a new aircraft. A TMO learns to accompany the transformation of an organizational culture.

Therefore, there are specific roles that a real TMO must play that traditional PMOs do not have to fulfill. These specific roles find their origin in what transformations are as compared to project portfolios or programs.

What Is a Transformation?

The Cambridge dictionary tells us that a transformation is “a complete change in the appearance or character of something or someone”.

A transformation is also “the process of changing completely the character or appearance of something in order to improve it”. As a synonym, a metamorphosis is a change into a completely different form or type, a change in composition or structure.

In aerospace, switching technologies from mechanical to hydro-mechanical and then to fly-by-wire control systems are typical examples of transformations.

E-commerce is another example of a transformation that shakes entire consumer behaviors, markets and businesses. Platform companies have revolutionized the way sellers and customers interact.

Transformation Management Requires Studying and Solving New Problems

Transformations clearly belong to the domain of complex systems. Complex systems are made of a large number of components that dynamically interact together in modes impossible to understand and control.

First, these interactions result in behaviors at the macro-system level that individual behaviors at the micro-level cannot explain. Transformation management must therefore develop a set of capabilities built upon complexity sciences.

Secondly, when the system is a social organization, transformation management also requires to study and solve advanced human dynamics. and indirect strategies.

Thirdly, direct interventions (such as mandating individual behaviors) are unlikely to bring about the required change in a complex system. Transformation management needs to study and solve indirect strategies that prove to be more effective because they touch the deeper, more persistent drivers of behavior.

Transformations Result in the Emergence of Something Radically New

During a transformation process, new “things” emerge. Emergence is “the fact of something becoming known or starting to exist”, or “the process of appearing”. Several types of emergence exist.

Example 1 – when you mix and cook sugar, wheat, yeast and other components, you get a muffin that is radically different from its constituents.

Example 2 – a caterpillar hungrily stuffs itself with leaves, grows, and then pupates a chrysalis. When metamorphosis is complete, the pupal skin splits and a butterfly flies off.

The first example is an “emergent behavior” that characterizes properties of a system that are in some way (possibly in a particular way) not captured by the properties of the parts.

The second example is a temporal version in which a new kind of system “emerges” at some historical time without in some way being captured in the previously existing systems.

In each case, the initial system and its components become something entirely new. There is no way to run the process backwards, recover the initial state of the components, and start all over again.

Some transformations require a long and continuous process. Others are explosive.

Transformations Rely on Interactions Between Agents

Interactions between agents are more important than the components themselves.

Emergent properties are a product of the synergies between the agents (components of a system). These synergies give rise to a new macrolevel of organization. Therefore, these emergent properties cannot be observed locally in the subsystems. They you can only observe them at the macrolevel structure.

The key point here is that the behavior of complex systems results more from the interactions (inside and outside the system) between the components than from the behavior of the components themselves taken in isolation.

Do not conflate interactions with interdependencies. Most projects depend on other projects or initiatives to deliver some enabling capabilities that are essential to their successful implementation. This is the domain of interdependencies. An interaction is simply a back and forth action or communication between different agents with some kind of resulting effect.

Example: The properties of water are not apparent in the properties of gasses of oxygen or hydrogen. Neither does an isolated water molecule reveal most properties of water. However, a microscopic amount of water is sufficient to observe these properties.

Phase transitions occur along lines of equilibrium. An exchange of energy and various sets of volume, pressure and temperature transform the water into different states as you can see in the figure below.

Whereas the solid area is well distinct from the other two, the line separating the liquid area from the vapor area ends up at some critical point beyond which the liquid phase can no longer be distinguished from the vapor phase.

In the business world, production, demand and offer are similar to volume, temperature and pressure of the water.

Transformations Concern the Macrolevel and the Microlevel

Due to the development of the different levels of organization within a single overall system, emergence gives rise to a complex dynamic between the different levels; most notably between the macro and micro levels of the system.

All the restaurants in a city give a typical example of this phenomenon. There is a macrolevel looking at how the people in the city eat globally outside their homes. And there is a microlevel that considers the individual restaurants. Running a single restaurant does not say anything about how the network of restaurants in a city works. Nor why you could run this network with some kind of “plan” similar to the management of a single resturant.

As a consequence, you cannot describe the emergent macrolevel phenomena with the vocabulary applicable to the parts. The emergent features require new terms and new concepts to categorize them.

A TMO Should Develop 3 Typical Characteristics

TMOs do differ very clearly from the traditional PMO. Several characteristics distinguish a TMO from a mere PMO. Here are three key characteristics among all of them:

  1. A TMO focuses primarily on the interactions between the components of this system over time, space and depth.
    • This requires that the TMO study and solve problems of network analysis, human dynamics and stakeholder management.
  2. A TMO addresses complex tasks and interactions at different scales
    • A family is not a village, a village is not a large city, and a large city is not a country. This is also true in a business organization. A TMO should study and solve problems of multiscale (from microlevel to macrolevel) adaptive system development.
  3. Finally, a TMO facilitates the emergence of new “things”
    • So a TMO should study and solve problems of newness management, rather than sticking to known “things” (e.g. creating a winning proprietary technology instead of fighting existing competitors by cutting costs).

And if I had to summarize what a TMO is, I would say that a TMO is a sort of farmer who “prepares the ground, plant seeds, then weeds, hoes, and waters the corn, and waits until it is ripe”.

Do you agree? Your contributions to this important question are welcomed here. Thank you.

Philippe

You can also read some of my most successful articles here:

High-Impact PMO

Do Not Stick to the Iron Triangle in Project Management

Do not stick to the Iron Triangle in Project Management. Only time proves the success of a project. Not the successful realization of the Triple Constraint (scope, time, cost… and quality), the famous Iron Triangle.

Consider the following two examples: the Boeing 737 MAX 8 project and the Sydney Opera House project.

The Boeing 737 MAX 8

The Boeing 737 MAX 8 was an initial project management success. The aircraft was delivered on schedule in May 2017 to catch up with its Airbus A320 NEO competitor. Sadly, this initial success was followed by a huge drawback with 2 crashes that killed 346 people. Since then, the aircraft are grounded, customers lost their trust, and Boeing loses several billions of $.

Une image contenant capture d’écran

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Fig. 1 – Representation of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 Benefits

The Sydney Opera House

The Sydney Opera House project has been an initial failure. Budget increased from AU $7 million to AU $102 million. The delivery was 10 years behind schedule. This project became a study in the domain of project failure. Who remembers the name of the architect, the Dane Jørn Utzon? The overrun on the Opera House, and the controversy that followed, destroyed Utzon’s career and kept him from building more masterpieces. He had even to leave Australia and the Opera House, in the middle of construction and never returned. Yet the Opera House is today a worldwide attraction for millions of tourists and a major success for Australia. the Australian government even recouped the massive cost after only two years. More than 8.2 million people from Australia and around the world visit it each year and some 300,000 people take part in guided tours. Isn’t it a huge success?

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Fig. 2 – Representation of the Sydney Opera House Benefits

Key Takeaways

What you want in reality is sustainable success, not costs, schedule or scope. Here are my three takeaways:

  • Quality (the “fourth dimension” of the Iron Triangle) must be the priority one. The Sydney Opera House is a superb iconic building that sooner or later would deserve its rewards. Performance was maybe bounded (by its Triple Constraint overrun), yet its success is unbounded[1].
  • The Iron Triangle is nothing more than an excessive set of constraints. Ease them to make sure that you achieve the right “quality”, that is what the users will get from your project. A few more months and redundant systems would have cost more than initially forecasted by Boeing, yet much less than the costs incurred by the tragedies of the crashes.
  • Above all, replace the efforts you devote to the Triple Constraint by efforts to reduce the fragilities of your project. A fragility is anything that does not like uncertainty, volatility, disorder, or time[2]. Never focus too much on efficiency alone. For example, imitate human bodies that reduce their fragility thanks to redundant eyes, lungs or kidneys.  

Do you agree?

Warmly

Philippe Husser

The article is inspired from the 5th version of my book The High-Impact PMO, Why and how agile project management officers deliver value in a complex world” that you can buy on Amazon

Or read my most successful articles here:

High-Impact PMO

[1] Read L. Barabasi, The Formula

[2] Read N. Taleb, Incerto

The image of the Syndey Opera House is from Patty Jansen, Pixabay

Do Not Stick to the Iron Triangle in Project Management

Do not stick to the Iron Triangle in Project Management. Only time proves the success of a project. Not the successful realization of the Triple Constraint (scope, time, and cost), the famous Iron Triangle.

Consider the following two examples: the Boeing 737 MAX 8 project and the Sydney Opera House project.

The Boeing 737 MAX 8

The Boeing 737 MAX 8 was an initial project management success. The aircraft was delivered on schedule in May 2017 to catch up with its Airbus A320 NEO competitor. Sadly, this initial success was followed by a huge drawback with 2 crashes that killed 346 people. Since then, the aircraft are grounded, customers lost their trust, and Boeing loses several billions of $.

Une image contenant capture d’écran

Description générée automatiquement

Fig. 1 – Representation of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 Benefits

The Sydney Opera House

The Sydney Opera House project has been an initial failure. Budget increased from AU $7 million to AU $102 million. The delivery was 10 years behind schedule. This project became a study in the domain of project failure. Who remembers the name of the architect, the Dane Jørn Utzon? The overrun on the Opera House, and the controversy that followed, destroyed Utzon’s career and kept him from building more masterpieces. He had even to leave Australia and the Opera House, in the middle of construction and never returned. Yet the Opera House is today a worldwide attraction for millions of tourists and a major success for Australia. the Australian government even recouped the massive cost after only two years. More than 8.2 million people from Australia and around the world visit it each year and some 300,000 people take part in guided tours. Isn’t it a huge success?

Une image contenant capture d’écran

Description générée automatiquement

Fig. 2 – Representation of the Sydney Opera House Benefits

Key Takeaways

What you want in reality is sustainable success, not costs, schedule or scope. Here are my three takeaways:

  • Quality (the “fourth dimension” of the Iron Triangle) must be the priority one. The Sydney Opera House is a superb iconic building that sooner or later would deserve its rewards. Performance was maybe bounded (by its Triple Constraint overrun), yet its success is unbounded[1].
  • The Iron Triangle is nothing more than an excessive set of constraints. Ease them to make sure that you achieve the right “quality”, that is what the users will get from your project. A few more months and redundant systems would have cost more than initially forecasted by Boeing, yet much less than the costs incurred by the tragedies of the crashes.
  • Above all, replace the efforts you devote to the Triple Constraint by efforts to reduce the fragilities of your project. A fragility is anything that does not like uncertainty, volatility, disorder, or time[2]. Never focus too much on efficiency alone. For example, imitate human bodies that reduce their fragility thanks to redundant eyes, lungs or kidneys.  

Do you agree?

Warmly

Philippe Husser

The article is inspired from the 5th version of my book The High-Impact PMO, Why and how agile project management officers deliver value in a complex world” that you can buy on Amazon

Or read my most successful articles here:

High-Impact PMO



[1] Read L. Barabasi, The Formula

[2] Read N. Taleb, Incerto

The image of the Syndey Opera House is from Patty Jansen, Pixabay


See Gull

Seven Recommendations for Project Managers Willing to Grow Their Career

In the domain of project management, a career develops over the years with a succession of jobs and projects. Many ask : “What career path can one have in the project management domain as a PMO, a Project Manager, or a Project Sponsor? What could be my next step?”. Here are my Seven Recommendations to grow your career in project management.

1- Get the most possible great opportunities to work in the domain of Project, Program, and Portfolio Management.

Life is a series of vibrations (small moves, peace, continuous development…) interrupted from time to time by big moves (strategic surprises, wars, transformations…). The big moves are the domain of Projects, Programs and Project Portfolios. This is a very exciting domain.

Fig. 1 – Achieve your strategic goals with excellence both in operations and in projects.

As a result, grow through a variety of exposures (sizes, domains, stakes, complexity…) in the domain of project management. Start with small projects. As a project team member, as a project leader, or as a PMO (Office or Officer) role. Go from projects to programs. Become a Portfolio Manager. Connect with the organization and business strategies.

Increase your scope of control and your challenges, until you learn and become a Strategy Management Officer, a Major Program (of the sort of these $xx bn IT or infrastructure programs) leader and / or an Enterprise PMO.

2- Remain thoroughly stakeholder-centric

You do not work primarily for yourself. You work for the community you belong to. Thus, identify each of your stakeholders (individuals and groups) and recognize the needs and the expectations of everyone.

Fig. 2 – Example of stakeholders gains, reluctance, and recommended actions.

Develop trusted interactions with all. Make sure no one has certainty about a project outcome while others have uncertainty. A shared single version of truth creates trust.

Consider that the stakeholders are parts of an ecosystem. Learn how complex systems behave. I will write soon articles on this most important topic.

Finally, do not spend large amounts of project advertising or communication. They will never match the credibility of genuine stakeholders, as explain Nassim Taleb in his book Skin in the Game.

3- Do not fear failure

Do not fear failure nor poor results. Yet, at the same time, beware of success. Both are very relative and time dependant. Above all, prefer intertemporal strategies where you accept to earn less now in order to earn more later.

Fig 3. – Illustration of 2 difficult projects with opposite benefits profiles

You will face difficult decisions. Put your skin in the game. Will you guaranty your project delivery, save your career, at the risk of later dramatic losses (i.g. the Boeing 737 MAX 8)? Or will you be a project manager ready to miss the iron triangle (costs, time, scope) targets, to end his career, yet willing to prepare the foundations for a bright future (i.g. the Sidney Opera House)?

4- Stay as long as possible in the environment of great leaders AND strong communities.

Great leaders are like powerhouses that pull a train toward a certain (bright, but unfortunately not always) future. At all events, leave as soon as possible mediocre ones.

In particular, never get into a bed of Procrustes. Procrustes was a rogue bandit who forced his hosts to fit the size of the bed he offered them for the night. Procrustes is a symbol of standards, bureaucraty, or conformism.

Yet, above all, develop your influence, your network, and the community of agents you need. While hierarchies and managers are important in not-too-complex systems, horizontal influence is necessary in a complex systems.

Fig. 4 – Illustration of a decentralized community of change agents.

A single person may indeed never grasp everything needed to make a single project, program or portfolio successful.  Therefore, identify a variety of talents. And engage them to regularly meet, share knowledge, and support each other in working towards a shared goal. It is a very effective way of learning, working, and achieving results in higly complex environments.

Learn network and complex systems sciences. You will for example discover the power of decentralized and intransigent communities. This may drive you to reconsider totally the way you “manage change”.

5- Always build a mix of on-the-job learning and formal learning

For example, when I worked at Michelin, a great Global-500 company, the average employee had more than 65 hours each year of formal training. That represented the 10% of the famous 70-20-10 equilibrium between on-the-job learning, social learning, and classroom training. Where are you in comparison?

Learn and practice all sorts of methods and tools. Understand what works best where. Get advice from a mentor. Work with a coach. A coach may be the ideal partner of your personal development plan.

Fig. 5 – Illustration of a variety of methods and tools in project management.

And also, read, read, read. Make sure that you explore a variety of domains like history, biographies and memoirs, science, business and leadership. Here is a list of my 12 preferred business books. I will also publish soon a list of my favorite websites and blogs

6- Stay ahead of the wave

The universe is accelerating. So is the business environment. Cope with the Red Queen effect. ” Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.”

Fig. 6 – The law of Maximum Entropy Production and the Red Queen effect.

Go beyond the golden triangle capabilities (technical, business and strategy, leadership) by studying, learning, and exploring three domains: complexity sciences, innovative (neo)strategies, and human dynamics.

Focus especially on human dynamics. Indeed, the world is not flat. And in-depth human understanding is a key succes factor.

Human dynamics comprise the actions and interactions of personal, interpersonal, and social / contextual factors and their effects on behavioral outcomes.

They are influenced by factors such as economics, religion, politics, and culture.

It encompasses languages, history, geopolitics, psychology, sociology, anthropology, cognitive sciences, neurosciences, computer science and other such fields.

7- Always search for the right equilibrium

A Project Management practitioner is often a kind of alchemist, always in search of the best balance between SOLVE and COAGULA, between YIN and YANG, or ORDER and ABSENCE of ORDER.

Systems that endure – that is, are sustainable – lie in dynamic balance somewhere between these two poles of order and disorder, efficient performance and adaptive resilience

  • Order leads to greater efficiency (usage of resources).
  • Absence of order, with means of interconnectivity and diversity, leads to greater resilience.

This is really something that must engage the project management community. The figure below shows this search of balance between order (planning) and diversity or interconnectivity.

Fig. 7 – Nature selects for a balance between efficiency and resilience.

An excess of either attribute leads to systemic instability and collapse. Ecosystems that survive and develop are those that achieve a balance between the mutually exclusive attributes of efficiency and resilience.

This is a “universal conversation between structure building and dissipation” that project management practitioners must engage when looking for their career moves.

Summary of my seven recommendations

As a conclusion, a career develops over the years with a succession of missions and projects. Some succeed. Some fail. Learn from each.

  • Try different functions (R&D, M&S, IT, Business…), companies, countries, and roles.
  • Develop customer-centricity
  • Do not fear failure, yet beware of success
  • Follow great leaders and build wonderful communities
  • Learn, learn, learn
  • Explore complexity sciences
  • Find your equilibrium between order and non-order

Move from one role to another one. Favor indirect and roundabout routes. Read the stories of people who made an impact. Discover how their journey has been a series of “vibrations and big moves”, including long periods of dessert and silence. Trust also that serendipity and providence will help you. And above all, never give up. Little by little, you will learn, grow, and better serve the world around you.

To your continued success

Philippe

The article is inspired from the 5th version of my book The High-Impact PMO, Why and how agile project management officers deliver value in a complex world” that you can buy on Amazon

Or read my most successful articles here:

High-Impact PMO

an indirect strategy

An Indirect Strategy Fits Best In A Complex World

An indirect strategy fits best in a complex world. This is is something “people with white beards” have learned during the course of their career. Conversely, they also learned that direct strategies mostly fail in complex environments.

There is a book that you may want to read: it is the “Treatise of efficacy” by François Jullien. This book is inspiring me, here is why.

Complexity doesn’t like direct approaches.

The direct strategy says: “let us define a goal, identify means, and select ways to achieve the goal.”

The direct approach imposes the will of an architect, of a politician, or of a particular leader.

The Babel tower is a symbol of this approach. The tower was more than a mere technical project. It was a “social project” with stakeholders who had different views on the project to say the least. You all know how it ended up.

An indirect strategy fits best in a complex world

Consequently, there is a question for project managers: « Can one continue to operate as a technician when it comes to determining social behaviors? »

In a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world, our actions cannot cover its contingencies with general deterministic laws. The world may indeed not be fully receptive to the order that we wish it to have.

The traditional direct approach is subject to the contingencies of complexity. The more a project deals with social environments, the less a direct approach is going to work. The more a project moves up into the hierarchy, where politics play a role, the less the direct approach works.

The indirect strategy says: “let us understand the situation, detect a potential, and take profit of opportunities to benefit from the potential.”

Indirectness requires sensibility, agility, and adaptability.

Potential consists in sensing the circumstances with a view to profiting from them.

When it is the case, circumstances are no longer something unpredictable and threatening to ruin any plan imposed upon them.

Instead, thanks precisely to their variability, circumstances can progressively be turned to advantage by the propensity emanating from the situation.

It is key to notice that, instead of imposing your will, you recognize a situation as a whole and you build your approach with an intertemporal mindset. You invest now for a future that is not yet determined.

As a symbol of this approach, you see an ear of corn. You weed, hoe, and water the corn. Then it is best to wait for the moment of ripening.

Indirectness also requires humility, patience, and equilibrium

It requires humility (you do not impose your will), acceptance of an ecosystem on which you have no power, and it requires that time may be longer.

A direct strategy may be glorious, and indirect strategy may (or should) be invisible to others.

But the direct one loses in complex environments, the indirect one may win.

Yet, a mix of directness and directness is an excellent approach to success.

In the domain of project management, using “roundness” early on is a winning strategy. Most project indeed show characteristics of complexity. As a result, an indirect strategy fits best in a complex world.

Indirectness allows project stakeholders to learn and adjust to the situation with flexibility not possible with “square” approaches.

The approach becomes direct or “square” when the indirect or “round” approach produces results that look ripe enough, that means, when they are secured enough, if we can talk of secured enough results, to make them “square.” 

So here is a table that shows some of the key characteristics of both approaches:

And as a conclusion, read what François Jullien explains in his book “The treatise of efficacy”:

“One should be round before a situation actualizes itself and square once it has become actualized”.

To Your Continued Success!

Philippe


The article is inspired from the 5th version of my book The High-Impact PMO, Why and how agile project management officers deliver value in a complex world” that you can buy on Amazon

Or read my most successful articles here:


What Can We Learn From Complexity?

Join me and Keyedin Solutions for this exciting and thought provoking On Demand Webinar

“Three Capabilities

for Strategy, Portfolio, and Program Managers

in a Complex World”.

Here are some of the topics explored during this webinar

Why we dissipate our energy ever faster

The emergence of new phenomena and transitions

Maximum resilience lies between order and non-order

Life is full of strategic suprises

The accountant and the rock star

What the Chinese wisdom can teach us in strategy

Understanding the culture of others

Analyse your network, influencers, and allies

Explore social dynamics of your allies and opponents


To Your Continued Success!

Philippe


The article is inspired from the 5th version of my book The High-Impact PMO, Why and how agile project management officers deliver value in a complex world” that you can buy on Amazon

Or read my most successful articles here:


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