Controlling chaos? The value and the challenges of applying complexity theory to project management

Remington, Kaye & Zolin, Roxanne (2011) Controlling chaos? The value and the challenges of applying complexity theory to project management. In Cooke-Davies, Terry (Ed.) Aspects of Complexity : Managing Projects in a Complex World. Project Management Institute, Newtown Square, Pa.

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The literature abounds with descriptions of failures in high-profile projects and a range of initiatives has been generated to enhance project management practice (e.g., Morris, 2006). Estimating from our own research, there are scores of other project failures that are unrecorded. Many of these failures can be explained using existing project management theory; poor risk management, inaccurate estimating, cultures of optimism dominating decision making, stakeholder mismanagement, inadequate timeframes, and so on. Nevertheless, in spite of extensive discussion and analysis of failures and attention to the presumed causes of failure, projects continue to fail in unexpected ways. In the 1990s, three U.S. state departments of motor vehicles (DMV) cancelled major projects due to time and cost overruns and inability to meet project goals (IT-Cortex, 2010). The California DMV failed to revitalize their drivers’ license and registration application process after spending $45 million. The Oregon DMV cancelled their five year, $50 million project to automate their manual, paper-based operation after three years when the estimates grew to $123 million; its duration stretched to eight years or more and the prototype was a complete failure. In 1997, the Washington state DMV cancelled their license application mitigation project because it would have been too big and obsolete by the time it was estimated to be finished. There are countless similar examples of projects that have been abandoned or that have not delivered the requirements.

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ID Code: 43354
Item Type: Book Chapter
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Complexity Theory, Project Management
ISBN: 9781935589303
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > COMMERCE MANAGEMENT TOURISM AND SERVICES (150000) > BUSINESS AND MANAGEMENT (150300) > Organisational Planning and Management (150312)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Current > Schools > School of Management
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2011 Project Management Institute
Deposited On: 18 Jul 2011 23:02
Last Modified: 19 Nov 2015 14:21

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