Wicked Problems: Treating Complex Projects as Simple Makes Them Chaotic
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Wicked Problems: Treating Complex Projects as Simple Makes Them Chaotic

“The vast majority of current project, programme, and portfolio management processes focus on “simple” systems. We assume that we can follow a staged and deterministic process by defining requirements, investigating alternative solutions, evaluating solutions, and implementing them. The reality, however, is characterised by “wicked problems”—complex projects where true requirements are unknown (or unknowable) before the projects start and develop in parallel with the solution. Treating them as simple often turns them into chaotic projects. … Although most projects, programmes, and portfolios are best described as complex systems, a significant effort by professionals is put into formulating experience-based best practices as managerial strategies. These often implicitly assume a “simple” project environment, as best practices are seen as a one-size-fits-all solution for a particular class of project without understanding their complex relationships to the project organisation and its environment. The subsequent application of ill-fitting tools and strategies may be a root cause of why project management (still) often fails” p9

Complexity Management for Projects, Programmes, and Portfolios: An Engineering Systems Perspective, Oehmen, J., Thuesen, C., Parraguez, P., & Geraldi, J. (2015). Project Management Institute, PMI. PMI White Paper