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Mastering Complexity

August 22, 2012

I have spent the last two days at the Annual Research & Innovation seminar run by ICCPM (International Center for Complex Project Management).

ICCPM and IACCM have worked closely together for several years, united by the interdependencies between project management and commercial / contract management. There is extensive research that points to the critical importance of contracts and commercial capabilities in the formation and management of complex projects – and also evidence that current contracting models and skills are not ‘fit for purpose’. Indeed, as i outlined in my presentation, contract and commercial practices frequently add to complexity and increase the risk of failure.

One key question relates to the definition of complexity. When, for example, does something migrate from being ‘complicated’ to being ‘complex’? The view at ICCP is broadly that something is complicated when it has extensive interdependencies and relies on the integration of many stakeholders and interests. Such projects become complex when there is a high level of uncertainty, either over what can be achieved or how to achieve it, or because of a high level of unpredictable change.

These characteristics call for quite different forms of contracting and funding; they demand intelligent negotiation and on-going rigor in contract and relationship governance. The contract must be adaptive and provide a framework within which the parties can operate to shared benefit. Such models are nto readily available and the right skills are rare. Yet the growth of global uncertainty and the increasing ambition of both public and private sector to drive innovation means that demand in this field will continue to grow.

This is exciting news for the commercial community – yet it is also demands the emergence of leaders and professionals who share a desire to make a real difference. IACCM will be highlighting some of those when it announces the results of its Innovation Awards in October. Meantime, the collaboration between IACCM and ICCPM will continue to explore and deliver new ideas and practical approaches, with a robust research background.

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