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Project Manager : Project Manager Dec Jan 2013
NOT ALL PROBLEMS ARE CREATED EQUAL University of Adelaide Professor Vernon Ireland says projects can be split into three different types of problems. The first type can be characterised as complicated, such as most construction, repairing ships or building cars. "The project management body of knowledge is perfect for these types of problems because there is a clear scope," says Ireland. The second type takes place in an environment that is different to the environment in which project managers are used to operating. Ireland uses his own experience to exemplify this. "Twenty years ago, I was involved in setting up a company in China. We had no idea of the local laws, or that you needed to oil the system with payments to get things done, or even whether subcontractors would be available to assist with the project." The project management body of knowledge is also useful in this situation because of the foreign environment, culture and lack of contact with suppliers. Ireland identifies wicked problems as a third category. He says these problems include the ongoing existence of terrorist attacks and suicide bombers, or the 2008/2009 financial crisis. "These are wicked problems because, by definition, the nature of the problem changes as you are trying to solve it," he says. According to Ireland, wicked problems include aspects that don't play out in a way we're used to. The Arab-Israeli conflict is a good example of this. Despite repeated attempts to resolve it, there has been little success in more than 50 years. PMBOK, although strong in many applications, is unsuited to solving these types of problems. Instead, Ireland says a more useful approach, drawing on British management scientist Peter Checkland's work, is to look at the problem through a variety of different lenses. These lenses might include religion, economics, legal and family, or even through the lenses of love and hate. "The idea is that you will be able to understand the problem by putting these perspectives together," he says. Ireland rejects the notion that project management is a series of wicked problems. "In the construction sector, projects are mostly straightfor ward. Most organisations can complete projects drawing on the existing PMBOK. "It's only with wicked problems it falls short," he says. engagement and continuous lear ning. "It also requires the development of a more strategic approach to addressing needs that extends beyond short-ter m solutions and actions," Dalcher says. is means that wicked problems require a reconsideration of notions of problem solving, resolution processes and the meaning of success. "Success is increasingly being seen as a more dynamic perspective that extends beyond handover, release or delivery," Dalcher says. So how do we succeed in this sense? "Developing long-term thinking is a good start," says Dalcher. "We need to engender a shift towards a better-informed and more meaningful way of measuring and reasoning about success at di erent levels and timeframes. "We also need more dynamic methods for dealing with variation, conflicting views, adversarial models that encourage questioning, and the ability to learn and improve during problem-solving endeavours." Practically, this will require moving beyond the safety of repeatable actions and defined processes, and reflecting on problems, solutions and systems in a long-ter m sense. "One way to foster a more re ective perspective is by adopting a long-term approach that looks at change, value and bene ts from a more strategic stance," Dalcher says. e results of taking a long-term, strategic stance, •THOUGHT LEADERS 20 Project Manager
Project Manager Oct Nov 2012
Project Manager Feb Mar 2013