This bonus Project Management Paradise Podcast episode is a recording taken from a webinar where Stephen Carver discusses “complexity in change management”.
Stephen is rated as one of the top lecturers at one of Europe’s leading MBA business schools, Cranfield University in the UK. As well as lecturing, Stephen runs a successful project management company, drawing on his experience of working with corporations such as Goldman Sachs, Halliburton and Virgin. He’s a regular contributor on national radio and TV and his gift for storytelling is legendary.
Subscribe to Project Management Paradise via one of the links above and you’ll automatically receive new episodes directly to your device.
Transcript from Episode 122: “Complexity in Change Management” with Stephen Carver
So we are going to talk about my favourite subject, as you probably remember, which is change management. Before we go there, let’s go back to what we did in April, which was, wow, in the middle of lockdown, it really was quite a session, we’re all very scared. We are still scared, but hopefully not as scared because we’ve got some data and we can see some ways through all of the crisis that’s hitting us.
And we talked about three things. We talked about demand, we talked about leadership, and we talked about automation, and for those of you who are with me, demand = unbelievable and COVID is going to make it even greater. The demand for professionals in change management / project programme management is going to go exponential, the data was there beforehand and now it’s gonna be even more.
Second thing we looked at was leadership. And we looked at this APM report, which I would recommend you have a quick look at it’s free, you can download it from the APM, a quite a shocking report, I found in that it said that, basically, a lot of what project managers are doing is wrong and they have to get more into leadership, which involves them giving up a lot and their own words, by the way, “if not all” of their present activities to move into the leadership mode. So quite a strong document that one.
Then we looked at AI and we looked at a master of AI, but even the master of AI saying that, hey, it’s not just about the algorithms is not just about the numbers, it’s about people and it’s a question of getting that in balance. And we looked at Elon Musk, who loved him or loath him has done amazing things with change management. I don’t know if you saw his satellites go over at the end of April. And of course, he’s now got the Americans back into space, manned space, from a standing start. I was reading an article about him, written 10 years ago and they were saying that he was a joke and that Boeing would just flatten him, and he will “a kid who didn’t even know what he didn’t know” well he has shown that, hey, he did seem to know what he was doing. And so the leadership, and the agile approach that he took was phenomenal.
So let’s talk about change management.
Yes, my favourite subject and wow, we had a bucket full of change. The world was already moving exponentially. And then we have Trump and he started going surreal. Then we had Brexit and everyone said, “You know, I give up, we can’t do any more change”. And then we had global warming on top of that. And then we had the pandemic. And in case you missed it, a meteorite almost wiped us out on the 2nd of May 2020, it missed the earth by a fairly close call – if it had hit we’d now be extinct. This is pretty extreme change, to say the very least and it’s all going to get worse – I saw this lovely postcard the other day up in London. And I do think it is going to get worse. It’s just the volume of change is there. And as change professionals, it’s an opportunity and perhaps, yes, in my world we’re getting worse. Poor old Boris. He’s a man that’s gone through extreme changes over the last year, when you think about what’s happened to him, including almost dying, unbelievable.
Einstein, let’s go to Einstein. Einstein actually, had something to say about crisis which I rather like, “in the midst of every crisis lies, great opportunity.” And I don’t want to sound callous, because it’s a tragedy for those that have lost people in this dreadful pandemic but having said all of those good things, hey, this is possibly the greatest window of change that the world has had, I would say in the last millennia. The potential for changing for hopefully, for the better, is phenomenal. And that window will start to close down in a few months time. So if you’re a Change Manager, now is your time.
Types of change; I show this very simple two by two (diagram) to my MBAs, not because they’re simple, it’s just a “let’s just kick around some ideas”, you know/don’t know, types of change, want to don’t want to the red box (Strategic Projects), what we call traditional projects. This is where somebody with Power Authority or whatever wants it to happen. And they want to plan they want to know when their money is going to be spent, who’s gonna be on the project, all those things, which has change managers, of course, it is our job to do. Now, these types of projects are relatively straightforward, or they damn well aught to be as you use standard tools and techniques and project management software to do them.
In the blue box (Compliance Projects); far more difficult to do. This is nobody wants to do them, but have to be done things like compliance projects. I worked on plans project in the bank a couple of years ago, I bounced in to see the senior executive and said, Would you like to join us on this compliance project? And I still remember he said, “Why don’t you go away and die?” And we think, okay, yeah, that’s pretty low stakeholder engagement. But I can’t say I blame him. He thought the compliance project was pointless, which it largely was, but we didn’t do it, we weren’t going to get a banking certificate, we would have to close down a bank. So have to do it. Now. That’s where my real heroes are born. If you can make a project happen, even though everybody else is saying I just don’t want to get involved, then that requires really good project leadership
The green box – Crisis Projects; don’t know what to do. It’s unplanned; just hits you. We’ve got one that’s called COVID. But there are phenomenal opportunities, if you actually think about crisis in the right way. A lot of people do crisis in the wrong way. As we mentioned last time, you know, it’s the idiot that says “I can solve all these problems” – they leap up normally the mobile phone and go bouncing around the office causing absolute pandemonium. They love it; they’re adrenaline junkies, but actually, they probably cause more damage than good. I was working on the STOPR rule, when you have a crisis:
- Stop, even if it’s for a second.
- Think: that’s the T.
- Orientate: orientate yourself to the problem and where it’s coming from and try to understand it all the people,
- Then you can come up with what you’re going to do some sort of Plan, then you get into action. But the action comes after four other steps have already been done. And then the last one
- Review: because you might be going in the wrong direction, that’s a state of mind.
Now the yellow box is Serendipity. And by the way, well done; A lot of you are now in that box. Basically, you wanted to be on this webinar, you can’t plan it, you just sit there and this, this guy goes on and tells you things. But you might learn something that you find useful. I hope you do. And also the questions that other people will perhaps yourself, give spark off other people’s minds. And so we can create the new ideas. Now we say you can’t have strategy can’t have new ideas, unless you spend some time in that yellow box.
Now, survival of the fittest. He never said it. He spent most of his career saying “I never said that” but everyone says yes, you did. So what he actually said? He said that “It is not the strongest and the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, it’s the one that’s most responsive and adaptable to change.” And that’s what we are going to talk about – adaptation to complexity.
So we’re going to use this analogy, which has already mentioned it we’re going to use the analogy of flight, because I find that most people don’t really want to talk about methodologies and processes, especially with projects. So we’ll find a way of getting into their heads quickly. We’ll then talk about complex versus complicated, a great discussion, and then we’re talking about some work that we’ve done a Cranfield, some academic research, very solid stuff, and it works. And then that’d be about 45 minutes, and then we’ll have some questions, I hope. Lovely. So let’s start.
This is my life. I go in front of lots and lots of terribly important people and they all ask me the same thing. “Yeah, we got incredibly complex change. How do we manage it? How do we make it better?” Now I could go on about methodologies and process, I’d love to, but if I do well, they tend to get bored fairly rapidly. Lesson number one. Most people are bored stupid by project by management and programme management. I’m sorry, I am one. But I acknowledge this now – people don’t get excited, I do you do, but most boards of directors, because they’ve never ever worked on a project, don’t understand that it’s dull. Now, let me just explain that most people in larger organisations, and I go to a lot of the top 100 companies, sadly they work their way up. Often lawyers and accountants, I’ve got nothing against lawyers and accountants, they have their uses, but they work their way up through discipline, and they arrive on the board. That’s great. They’ve never managed a project which cuts across the organisation and they don’t know the difficulty of working in the matrix, in the messy matrix, trying to make it happen when people have an aligned job / responsibility and suddenly a project person burst into the office wanting them to contribute. How do you do it? Who’s going to pay? Do I want to get involved in this? Is my department going to actually see anything? So a lot of the senior people in companies really haven’t got a clue. And this there’s no right or wrong. So it’s just how they are. And so I don’t go on about methodologies and process. But I do later, but not at the beginning. What I tend to do is use this number (68%). This is PwC. Standish group, I’m sure we know them. “The Chaos report” – It’s published every few years worldwide project failure right now, yeah, we could have a huge debate, what hell do we mean by project failure or project success? You know, I run MBA sessions on this. But let’s keep it clean. As they say, you know, they talked about well, what was the time scale? What was the budget was a deliverable? Did you meet them, blah, blah, blah. And they recon that globally across all industries averaged out 68%. Now, that is a huge number. Now, we could argue, some projects, IT projects, typically, to be much higher, putting up a building much lower, and it’s all granulated in the report. But as a headline figure, this certainly grabs people’s attention. So I always turn to the financial guy and say, “so this new project, you’re doing total cost half a million. Yeah, well, 68% chance of failure. How do you feel about the half million just basically being flushed away?” Because the probability is it will be, wasted? And of course, they go white and say, “No, no, that that can’t happen”. I say”, Well, that’s what happens with projects, sadly” and so that normally gets their attention. And they say, Oh, we will be throwing away that amount of money on change projects. Now, because yes, they’re poorly managed. That’s exactly what you’re doing. Now, that’s a lot of money. So 68%. Now, what do you get on a plane? If there was a 68% chance that you were going to crash? Of course you wouldn’t? What do you think about it? That’s exactly what you’re doing. When you propose a change project in your organisation, according to the experts, 68% will fail, whatever you call that. Now, flying. None of us I haven’t flown now for two months, I’ve absolutely adored it, because I spend most of my life or did in planes. And now it’s turned into almost surreal experience. I’ve talked to someone who flew at Hong Kong the other day, and they said, most people were wearing for NBC suits on board the plane, you know, this is seriously weird stuff. And aviation is going to change fundamentally, after this COVID. But let’s use this flying analogy. Let’s talk about happier times that we can all remember flying. So what I’d like you to do is, think about the last time you flew the last time you flew. Number one, did you want the flight? And the answer is no, you didn’t? Because he said No, he didn’t. That’s the last thing you wanted. What you wanted was to be at your destination. You have to get from A to B it was B that you want to be there for the meeting for the holiday or whatever it was a man he had to go through this ghastly costly experience of taxes and queueing and security and oh, dreadful stuff, just to get on to the damn flight. And I always say, this is what projects are like. Everyone wants the benefits of projects. Oh, I can see the benefit. I want those Of course they want them. That’s cool. But unfortunately had to get there you have to fly from A to B and that’s what a project change project does. takes you from where you are to where you want to be. And most people don’t want the journey. Let me use the analogy. Last time you flew by yourselves into a thin metal tube. It has the crash resistance of a Coca Cola can burn. The wings are filled up with about 25,000 litres of high explosive liquid fuel called jet a one if it catches fire. Basically, you fly your die. You have virtually no safety equipment at all. And you think Yes, I have. No you haven’t. Have you got a parachute? Look, we’ve got an ejector seat. No. What have you got? You’ve got a plastic life jacket.
A plastic whistle for attracting attention. And that’s about your lot, you get the lobster mask, which by the way only lasts about three minutes. And most times they’re deployed. Most people don’t wear them properly and only cover their nose or their mouth or not both. So it’s a complete waste of time, and it’s feeding oxygen into what could be a fire within the thin metal tube. I just didn’t want to think about these things. But anyway, there you are at the end of the runway, the lunatic at the front of the pilot, let’s call them the project manager, who’s there to take you from A to B opens up the taps and takes these tonnes of metal rolling down the runway on three wheels it tries to go accelerating up to about 200 kilometres per hour. I think of that the next time you look at your speedometer on your car, takeoff speed depending on wind, he pulls back a little stick and off you go into the air and you are now a flying bomb. You are accelerated 200 kilometres back 345 hundred kilometres 550 kilometres 600 kilometres but 700 kilometres by 750 kilometres per hour, you are no rocket, you will take them up to 10,000 metres above the surface of planet air, where the air is so thin that if you depressurized your lungs or trees, and you wouldn’t be able to blow your cylinder whistle anyway. You’re then flown across water. What a stupid thing to do in an aeroplane. If anything goes wrong, you’ve got nowhere to land, you land on the sea. Look at the stats, you die. I always find it amusing. Ladies, take off your high heeled shoes, you know before we get into the lifebox forget it you’re gonna die. Look at the stats, keep them on what bow and then they throw this thin metal tube at a concrete runway, thousands of bars away and decelerated from 750 kilometres bound to zero and the line you up with airbridge. Excellent. We’ve all done it. Last time you flew? What was the name of the pilot? I bet you most of you have not got a clue. Why? Because they made it look easy. That’s the point of this analogy. I say that project managers are like pilots, they take you from where you are to where you want to be. everything they do is unbelievable. Because the dangers and the risks they have to manage are phenomenal. And if you’re any good, you are completely and totally taken for granted because you make it look easy. Why? Because people want a smooth flight. People expect a boring flight. And so this analogy of flying and projects works well. Let’s dive in a bit deeper and see what we’ve got. Number one, the pilot he or she number one should be pretty obvious. qualified. I am staggered in some cases nauseated by how few people running projects have any training, support, or qualifications to do the job. off my chest thrown in. You know who’s available is Oh, have a have a project. Would you do this in the civil aviation world? Can you imagine it in Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. Well, when I say Captain normal on the cost of coffee bar here at Heathrow Terminal five. We’re a bit short of clients at the moment and and be able to short of a captain I’ve always fancied having a backup this one. I’ve got a book. And quite honestly, I don’t know what all the fuss is about. Basically in the handbook says houses get bigger houses get smaller left. Why? Come on, bro, I’ve got that. I’ve got that. But I’ve kept it. You’d think they would do ranged. And yeah, I see people running multimillion pound projects with absolutely no clue what they’re doing. Oh, I’m a general manager. I can be a change manager. Really? I don’t think so. Second thing before they even take off. They go through checklists. All Vale love their checklist, Checklist Manifesto book, good read, by the way, you know, and I like checklists, just like pilots, I want to check out that this thing is capable of flying before I throw it down the runway packed full of explosive fuel. And so we tend to go a checklist. And I’ve had this so many times with board of directors. Oh, let’s get going on this project. Let’s fly lots of enthusiasm. Could you see a commercial pilot saying Yeah, forget the checklist. Let’s get there early. You know, I’m feeling lucky or you just wouldn’t happen. Now, by the way, low hanging fruit and let’s see some I can play the silly game that often directors one of seeing this thing moving forward a parent progress. I can do that game. It’s important. But hey, most of the time, I’m making sure that this beast will fly. Because I don’t want to find out when I’m airborne, that basically we haven’t gone off fuel, or that there’s a terrorist on board, shall we call them a negative stakeholder. So all of these things the analogy runs true. Now, who’s actually flying
The plane, or the answer is the autopilot. When I assess project managers I go in and see what they’re doing. If they’re either a running around like headless chicken attached to a mobile phone, or be even worse, sitting alone in their office staring at last week’s Earned Value fingers. As far as I’m concerned, they are not project managers, project coordinators at best project controls people. Hmm, not project managers, not project leaders, project leaders know how to set up systems whereby most of the thing runs itself. And that’s why you called software marvellous as your auto pilot. And that enables you as a pilot, most of the stuff dealt with, which then distresses you, which makes you then think about what could go wrong. And you’d have the headspace if it did go wrong to deal with it. By Alyssa tested on flight simulators, I’ve had the immense pleasure and privilege of watching, they’re being tested, and they are pushed and pushed and pushed in the simulator often until the plane crashes, just so that they know how they will behave under pressure. Now I run lots of project management simulations. And I test project managers out on the simulations and some of them just don’t cut the rate. They know it all. They’ve got their Prince to boss or APM qualification. That’s cool. I’m not knocking any of that stuff. It’s cool. I want it but put them on a simulator and pressurise them. And often they completely lose it. And off the thing they say once they’ve crashed the project crashed is the same as the pilot say on the flight simulator. Oh, what I wouldn’t do that in real life. Of course, they would then now into self denial, testing and project managers under pressure in a safe environment is important because you don’t want to test them in real environment, because it can all get very expensive very fast. So the analogy works. Now let’s have a look at a landing because it’s all about landings. As we said, no one’s really interested in the takeoff from the cruise. What they want to do is get to their destination preferably early, same on projects. Now was this a good landing this was the famous landing on the Hudson. The pilot Chesley Sullenberger, the third great name to have if you’re going to have an accident, unbelievable piloting, he managed to land this a 320 on a river, the river Hudson United States, despite everything that happened, by the way, what happened? statistically impossible. He was on takeoff pack full of accountants and lawyers. Sadly, they all survived notion so that and so take off lots of fuel climbing over Manhattan. And basically boats got sucked into the engine. Well, excuse me compliance or aircraft manufacturers have to show that an aircraft engine can ingest bird and bird strikes and will not be severely damaged. We have compliance Euston. Haha, yes, but the birds are big excuse me, compliance doesn’t matter. It’s Canada Goose show, right? It’s all in the world and the regs? Yes, it was. But it wasn’t one Canada Goose. It was five, five, statistically That’s impossible. They’re Flying V film formations. Yeah, I know. And so the statistical chance of getting five ingested into an engine, all within half a second is zero and tell you that, yes, but it happened. And it stalled. The engine will know that that can’t happen. It happened. By the way, it then caught fire. No, no, let me show you forget your design or your risk analysis. It happened what was billions on? Yes, it was billions. And by the way, it didn’t happen on one engine. It happened on both civil taneous Li. Now this is trillions to one it can’t happen. No one has ever ever been asked to do and then like this before, and Sullenberger had to deal with him. So first thing I’d like you to look at is the picture. People on the wings, how many of them are wearing a life jacket? The first thing these people were told on their appliance checklist. safety briefing, your life jacket is under your seat, virtually no 110 percent were actually wearing their life jackets. It’s a nice little point. Yes, we have all this stuff on projects, it’s all would be like this. And here’s our methodology, and this person signed off this and under pressure. I’m afraid most of it goes on people just go with instinct, in this case, instinct just get the hell out of here. And they just didn’t think life jacket would have taken two seconds. Three people were so stressed. They stood on the wing, waiting for rescue which is on its way the fairies are there within minutes. That actually took a while I haven’t got time for this and actually dived off the wing started swimming in a frozen Hudson. Now if you don’t get far 30 or 40 feet, you’re gonna start drowning because of the cold and the shock. Luckily, they were hauled out by the gas to ferry minutes Why the hell are you trying to swim that and some river people are stressed on projects, they do not behave in a rational way that we all dream that they should, according to a methodology. So let’s watch the actual take off and the accident now. This is a fantastic video. You can get it on YouTube. I like it because yeah, it’s a animation bar.
<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/5RpDNTbSsI0″ frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe>
The voice is the actual voice cockpit recorder. So let’s listen to it. So here we go. They only have two and a half thousand feet or 180 knots. I think most of them don’t have customers like it they don’t want exciting flights. wheels up. It’s just man LaGuardia Airport last thing in the bottom left hand corner, and then now fly over Manhattan which you can see on the right hand side of the screen. So everything nice and boring because that’s how the passengers will love it. And you’ll probably notice immediately the pilots and the co-pilot Mr. Skilling is going through checklists, they love their checklists. Everything is going to an off thousand feet. Dell Dell Dell here. Okay, check this I mean but no power; on fire; falling towards Manhattan. Trying to sell the engines in one storm. He’s now flying it manually.
Unbelievable, incredible skill. And by the way, if you’ve seen the film, Sully, you’ll know that did they try and blame the pilot, they couldn’t help themselves. Boeing did the same with the max eight. And remember those accidents last year tragic accidents. They always try and blame the pilot. Now, why am I talking about this? Well, it’s a bit like that on projects. If anything goes wrong, they’re after you as a project manager. They always claim they won’t. But they are. Why? Well, you can imagine if you can blame a pilot, then it’s just the human factor. One idiot messed up, you know, we can blame the pilot earlier, we should have done better, could have done it back to the airport, whatever. Because of course, it isn’t the pilots fault, then that means it’s the governance, the procedures, this case, the plane, in which case you probably have to ground the entire fleet as Boeing finally had to the Max Eight. Now we’re talking billions. And so I’m afraid is on projects that always go for the pilot, the project manager, they can’t help themselves. Now I’ve been pulled apart and it kind of goes to territory sad or true this photo bad projects for two cultures. Now, yeah, he said incredibly calm. He knew his own physiology. He was a guy that just loved going on the simulator. As he said, I need to know and constantly know how I would react in crisis situations. This is why I’ve encouraged your project, man. Just come Come on my Sims. I’ll put you under pressure. Let’s see how they behave. And he said positive thing not a negative thing. It’s a learning thing, professional culture, checklist and process but he knew went kick them. As you probably know from the film he deviated from standard operating procedure to land that plane, they tried to say he was wrong to do it. They now know that if he had followed exactly what the checklist said, in this case, everyone would have died. And by the way, I actually went over this lecture a few months ago, and one guy in the audience said, No, should have stuck to the compliance. I said, No, no, sorry. He used his judgement. And he changed it. And then they got down safely. He said, No, they should stop. Absolutely a break of governance compliance. What’s been, he said, we should have stuck to it, I suppose everyone would have died. That would have been okay, they would have died within the compliance framework. Let’s just think what is going through your mind there are people out there who would assume that the project failed, as long as it’s done in the prescribed way? This is not the sort of leadership that I want on my projects. There are people like that out there who think like that great communicator, great leader, big picture, manage the complexity, agile, come back to that word, and accountable as all project leaders and managers are at the end. A little bit of theory here just to fill you in. I hope you’re still with me on this one. Okay. You probably know all this stuff. five levels, everyone agrees it? Yeah, it’s fairly crude term. But basically level one bunch of idiots running around with mobile phones, screaming at each level to some bits, the business organisation understand project management, most people don’t like the people that do get swamped by the culture of mobile phones, level three compliance standards. Normally what’s happened a big projects gone wrong, the CEOs had a hissy fit, a banged on the table, everyone must go on a print to course or something. I’m not knocking for him to do. But honestly, you know, Janet and john play at a project. But you know, everyone now has to fill out the light forms. Often, by the way, they see that as a damn nuisance than what the cultural light level for the culture is coming through, people understand that this stuff is here to help them, not hinder them, and they can measure what works and what doesn’t work. So that benefits to works great that it doesn’t chuck it on the job doesn’t matter. Well, using judgement, hmm, level five, the culture is good. It’s all about change. bit like the Elon Musk culture, you know, changes good changes opportunity, let’s go for it. A success is normal. Now, some work by some colleagues of mine by clever people at Cranfield, three friends as well, super work in 2014. Big academic paper, by the way, in academic terms, that’s yesterday, they said, Look, let’s take this standard model. And let’s have a look at strategic contribution. Because the only reason you’re doing projects, presumably, is to meet some strategic vision that someone has otherwise it’s isolated change, which is largely pointless. What they came up with was fairly obvious, I’ll skim through it, if you’ve got a level one organisation don’t even use the word strategy. What is the point you just crushed around having a good time surviving from project to project one goes wrong chance other company or organisation goes down the path. Level Two, again, quite honestly don’t talk about strategy yet is staggering around you’ve got some compliance, but not much. Level three, got a failure, little strategic contribution, quite honestly, they looking at these companies academic work, so it isn’t opinion or consultant. The second limit work looking at real companies, level three, wasting your time talking about strategy, if it’s on the agenda, just strike it out, is staggering around, you’ve got some good compliance records.
But level four starts to actually support the strategy. So now you are delivering projects in a way that can actually stack up towards strategy. And level five, it is your strategy or a disrupter bit like Elon Musk, or, Bezos you are, it’s a softer, changes good. I used to work virgin, same analogy there. That’s all fairly obvious, but nice to be seen on a project, academic paper, but thing they found was they didn’t expect to find, which really quite shocked a lot of people is this. What they found was there was a kind of barrier between three and four. And a lot of companies just didn’t get through it. And this barrier was the limit of a process based approach. Now, a lot of people misquote me on all this and say Stephen Carver was against process. No, I am not. Okay. They are statement recorded for all time. I do believe in process. But blind adherence to process unfortunately destroys the one thing you do need on projects, which is flexibility and agility. And so just pushing the process harder at level three does not push you into level four. And that’s the problem a lot of organisations have, they just tell lies that people need to filling out more forms. what they find is they actually go back down to level two, because people hate it. To get through that barrier. Yes, you need process to be processed four and five, but you need leadership, personal accountability and understanding of complexity. so complicated versus complex. Let’s hear from an academic complex adaptive systems are different systems when really complicated systems as described in terms of individual constituents, even if there are huge number of constituents. This may be complicated, if the interactions among the constituent systems and the interaction between the systems involved just such a nature of the system as a whole cannot be properly understood.
Simply analysing its components, it is complex for you are absolutely as clear as mud. He didn’t say at the end of the paper, therefore jumbo jet is complicated, but mayonnaise is complex. you bother loved this idea, you can take a jumbo jet apart, put it back together, you got a jumbo jet mayonnaise, you make it, you can’t unmake it. It’s messy. And so I saw this other day jumbo mayonnaise zoom in as the most complex thing on planet Earth. Okay, let’s use the flight analogy and explore this complexity a bit more. Once we got individual projects being flown by individual project managers who kind of know what they’re doing. And unquantified then we can talk about what happens when you’ve got a multi project environment programmes portfolios, let’s not get into the difference between the two as if it really matters. So I use the analogy again of air traffic control, it works people kind of get it, it’s sexy, all that stuff. What we’re trying to avoid is this. And in real life, of course, what we’re trying to avoid these projects, taking each other’s resources, I want the it resource, I want that best person, air traffic controllers, I had the immense privilege of going down to NATS National Air Traffic Control down the south coast of England a couple of years ago. And this guy was doing his job amazing people very calm, massive. What’s your job? He said, the maggots mate. Sorry. He said maggots to what? He said maggots got to get them in the tube. You know, I thought I’ve got a one light one here. What do what do you mean maggots in tubes? He said the tubes and what’s the tube? What’s the matter? He pointed screens and these maggots? I said, Well, they’re aeroplanes are they must do remember what else are they? And I realised that he had a sense of humour. He said we don’t think of them as aeroplanes. we’d lose our minds if we thought about them as aeroplanes, because the responsibility that we have one slight error of judgement, and men, women and children will fall probably alive down to their deaths on planet Earth, you know, that’s gonna freak you out. So we think of them as magnets. They’re living all over the place, we have to get into the tube with the approach into London Heathrow or Gatwick either like that analogy as a programme or an ex programme manager. I think that’s what I used to do lots of wriggling projects or wanting the resource Now. Now. You don’t like flying look away. Now let’s look at flights over Europe, over 24 hours. This is 126 and 926. red dots. As you can see, whoops, gosh, are we gonna make this work? Yes, here. There you go. These are the flights coming across the Atlantic red eye special arriving at Heathrow. I’ve been on that a few times myself. It’s now four o’clock in the morning landing at Schiphol Airport one hour ahead. Most tidal flow left and right, we’re running at 2000 planes now and are running a sixth in the morning either getting busy, some mad lunatics are flying against the flow. They’re flying to the early morning meetings in the States. But of course, it’s all about time zones, we’re now running, probably a 50-50. Try and imagine the complexity of managing that. And now the tide of flow is now largely towards the west. We’re now running 11 o’clock in the morning. But of course, you’re not just doing this in two dimensions, you’re doing it in three dimensions, you’ve got the magnets going up, the magnets going down through the magnets are going along, or flying along at 750 kilometres per hour. And so you have to think about is a 3d puzzle as well. We’ve got planes flying down to South Africa, they’re very wide because there’s no integrated integrated air traffic control over Africa. You just get passed over from country to country. someone’s about to fly back over Libya here. She’s not gonna get shot down by the IAF, and he didn’t so that’s a good day, someone landing in Madrid, it’s now seven o’clock in the evening. 2,300 planes is now going down. 2,000 1,900 1,800 1,700 1,600 charges 61 air traffic control lesson I show you this. Is that chaos? Well, does anybody know otherwise, no one would ever fly again. Is it complex? Or is it complicated? Now Damn, got time to do a poll, please forgive me. I normally do that with my MBAs. In fact, when you analyse this academically, that’s 90%, complicated 10% complexity, because I don’t really understand that that must be complex bits of it are most of it isn’t.
So let’s look at some other words from the academics complicated like a Swiss watch like a jumbo jet, taking the bar. It does what it says on the tin complex is different, and people will look at the dictionaries have different. How can we explain complexity? Hmm. decision makers commonly mistake complex systems for simply complicated ones, and look for solutions without realising that learning to dance, a complex system is definitely different from solving the problems arising from it. I love that idea. Now, let’s go back to my three colleagues, these geniuses, another paper that they wrote, they said, let’s look at complexity and try and distil it down. And they came up with three types of complexity. Let’s do two and then we’ll begin the third one. And the second first one was structural complexity, number of bits and number size, number of people involved in product number, times and number of subcontractors. Now guys to build oil platforms as me with hair tech ignited 85 Wow, look at the PPA on that. But building other platforms was a hugely structural complex. get lots of bits and pieces, clever people put them together and Bob, Bob’s your uncle. that’s relatively well dealt with by conventional project programme management, not saying it’s easy, but it’s dealt with emergent far more interesting to me, that’s how the world is changing around you, as you’re trying to do the change.
So technological change, the world’s changing, you know, Brexit was an example of an emergent change, they are doing a project and something Brexit happens around you. And now COVID-19. And so suddenly, everything is changing around you just when you’re trying to create stability. Let’s put them in a two by two and play games. Okay, no, no, no, the low low is the green box. that’s relatively straightforward project. We know what it is we’ve got WPS, whatever the hell it is, we’ve got strict change control. I call it a conventional project, not knocking them in any way, by the way. Nice to do these, you know, you still need a good pilot flying them you need look excellent stuff. As you move up, perhaps we talking about multi project programme, whatever. And so we’ve got air traffic controllers, that’s done to death, you know, Book of knowledge, PMI, APM. It’s all there going up. It’s not demeaning it in any way. What interests me more is the red and the yellow box, red box. This is where you got a fairly simple project, but it’s going to change on a daily basis. People nobody can’t have that. Well, the word we used was agile. Please, I hate people overusing the word agile. I’m sick to death of people. Oh, let’s go agile, then got a clue what they’re talking about. And what we started to do to keep it fly and algae gang was, hey, let’s talk about fast jet pilot. My way. This is the Agile Manifesto. That’s how it all started. Back in 2001. When you look at it statement, blindingly obvious, and it is it’s a culture thing. Agile is no more than culture either doing agile in 1985. We just didn’t call it agile teams. When you look at this one I love number five, what you should do is build projects around motivated individuals and give them the environment and support they need and trust them to get the job done. Excuse my language. No, Sherlock, there was me all these years building projects around demotivated individuals, and I gave them a lousy environment, I gave them no support. I didn’t trust them an inch. Now I see my Mr. I’m not knocking our job. But we have to just say get to state of mind. The rest is just normally a methodology that someone’s going to flog it not knocking it okay, because a lot of people just can’t think agile. Now, let’s think agile fighter jet pilot. Now I know what you’re thinking, forget it. Okay, fighter pilots are really Dell people. I know that. I’ve worked with a lot of them. And they are I say Dell, they have to be Dell. They are flying supersonic, tin cans, covered in armaments around the naughty at this very moment. And they have to react to whatever hits them. Because the enemy sadly, don’t share their plans. So these people have to be agile, and they train and they train and they train and they train and they train and they train and they train. Now I was very lucky, because I actually got a flight in a fast jet. Set the pilot afterwards. That’s amazing. He said, No, it’s not. I said no. That’s incredible. How do you do that? He said, Oh, flying typhoon dz. Now we can teach you to do it. That’s not difficult. W silly. Quite honestly. I’m not paying for flying. That’s easy. I’m trainer for that. I get paid, actually for making the decisions. The G that you just experienced. I have to be able to think at a very strategic level about am I going to lose missiles off? What would happen if I do this? Could I start world war three was pulling seven off GE was flying the plane. And I thought that’s how an Agile Project Manager thinks they know the methodology and this everything backwards, forwards and tightwads it’s in their head. They’re hugely trained. Now, I could go on and say let’s talk about complex dynamic. But all this is rubbish. It’s a nice little thing and it’s got you thinking the right way. I hope you see planes don’t fly in two dimensions and projects flying two dimensions, they fly in three dimensions. There are three dimensions of complexity. The third dimension is the socio-political complexity. The messy one is communication, intuition, intuition, excuse me, competence, politics, stakeholder engagement culture. I’ve got a methodology here. We don’t do culture here, huh? All the Hollywood stuff, all the stuff that no one ever talks about, I have my boss get a feel about this project, when it delivers. Does it actually add to my boss’s prestige? Or does it actually take away workers that they needed on another project? And how about people who want this project to fail internally, so their project will actually work? Oh, dear people say, you know, that shouldn’t happen. Of course, it happens once to me after the project when I’m successful, or failed. So you having to manage three things at three things. By the way, if you want more of this, I’m running a two day course in September if you want it, but how do you manage all three at the same time? There’s a classic flying example Ba, stack up your planes, structural problem, emergent. When do we bring them out? socio-political people will give it one to fly? People say we don’t want planes flying over us anymore. You have to measure all three British Airways artcore.
As a part of the research, we asked 246 qualified, experienced project leaders, this isn’t a survey this isn’t academic paper. You know what, which three complex is the most difficult to manage? And Well, the answer was fairly strong. Hey, socio-political that gets us in the end every time. And then our second question, and I still remember a lot of people said the grown your own formal training and development, which of the three complexities has received the most attention? And Surprise, surprise, most people worry endlessly about structural as well they should. But hey, your biggest problems come from a socio political are you communicating with your team? What are the politics you have to do all three and that in a single slide, by the way, is everything that’s wrong with current way that project and programme management is largely supported in organisations organization’s at the moment, they’ve got it wrong? So back to Darwin, adaptable change, we are in the middle of a terrible change, we will come good because we are hugely adaptable. We’ve seen it once a lot of this pointless, not knocking governance or compliance but a lot of it just self-rude to the point that it just overbearing self, you know, people became, you know, basically helpless, learned helplessness, a lot of that went, and suddenly people are doing things you look at the NHS, but you know, two 3% of people used to visit their GP, virtually. Now it’s 99%. And that’s happened in 10 weeks, the recommended will take 10 years, people can adapt very well to change. While economic form, we will emerge from this period stronger, wiser and more connected as a global society. And we as change managers, I feel the duty to manage that change properly. 68% Well, I can imagine what Winston Churchill would have said to 68% and I love this quote, success is the ability to go from one failure to another with absolutely no loss of enthusiasm. As project managers we always have to burn the enthusiasm because hey, that keeps the project flame alive.
Download Stephen Carver’s Guidebook on the topic here.
Connect with Stephen Carver on LinkedIn.
Follow Stephen Carver on Twitter here.
Stephen Carver has also produced a Guidebook on the topic of future trends entitled ““Post COVID19 Trends: “The Future is Projects – The Future is Positive”. Download it here.