Projects and complexity - Future of Work research centre - University of Bath - School of Management

Future of Work research centre

University of Bath School of Management

Projects and complexity

Project team: Professor Juani Swart, Neil Turner (Cranfield University), Isabel Prieto Pastor (University of Valladolid)

We are looking at how people respond to complexity in projects, and how these responses shape the complexity in return. That is the iterative process between response and complexity.

To do this, we are looking at which knowledge and skills (human capital) and which relationships (social capital) individuals draw on when they act in complex contexts.

Understanding complexity in projects

One group of lenses that can be applied to studying projects come from the field of complexity. We use a framework for assessing subjective complexity. It classifies the challenges facing a project manager as being either structural, socio-political or emergent.

Why understanding project complexity matters

Projects are both important and ubiquitous. They are important to:

In terms of fixed capital formation (just one part of project-based activities), the global spend in 2014 was $11.4 trillion.

This importance and ubiquity have not matched performance. Many studies over many years confirm that around 70% of projects fail to meet one or more of their prime objectives. This has not substantially changed over time.

For whatever reason, the project-form of organising remains appealing but problematic. It is this problematisation that makes understanding them important.