The Metis of Projects

How To Remain Cognizant of a Project’s (Social) Complexity

J.B. Berndt

A volume in the series: ISCE Book Series: Managing the Complex. Editor(s): Michael Lissack, ISCE Research. Kurt A. Richardson, ISCE Research.

Published 2014

“The Metis of Projects” addresses veteran project manager Ben Berndt’s unease with the use of established (project) management frameworks given their general inefficacy. Despite the use of these frameworks, it is estimated that some 30% of projects still fail because they deliver too late, cost more than expected and/or lack quality. Often, projects and their environments are too complex to be controlled by rather linear frameworks. Where most practitioners define complexity as "complicated," most academics define complexity (more correctly) as interrelatedness. In recent years, the academic community has developed several "level-of-complexity frameworks;" however, these frameworks are not commonly known to practitioners and are therefore not regularly used. And, when examined further, these frameworks appear to be merely environmental scans, used to assess the level of complexity in the project management environment. But projects also carry inherent complexity; they are socially complex, and it is this social complexity that—paradoxically—needs management. Combined with personality assessments, social network theory is used here to glean a better understanding of the social complexity in a project. Berndt believes that, following Hugo Letiche and Michael Lissack's emergent coherence concept, managers should steer clear of frameworks in order to come to grips with the complex, and so he introduces whole systems methodologies, in which group understanding is used to continually set a next step. Berndt concludes his study by describing his multi-view, multi-tool participative project management style, which he thinks best aligns with (managing) the complex.

Part A: In Search of the Metis of Projects 1. A Feeling of Unease. 2. The Project Management Arena. 3. Too Linear Project Management Frameworks. 4. Complex Project Management Frameworks. 5. Don’t Framework Your (Management) Life. Part B: An Attempt to Touch the Metis of Projects A Personal and Pragmatic Attempt to Touch the Metis of Projects. 6. Case Study X. Intermezzo: An Appreciative Inquiry Experiment. 7. Case Study Y. 8. Metis Mindfulness. 9. Afterwords. References. About the Author.