Embracing Emergence: Problem Solving in Complex Projects


Managing within the unpredictable and complex environments of today’s projects calls for new competencies to help interpret and respond to problems. Quantum storytelling can play a powerful role in reinterpreting project concepts such as risks, and their resulting problems, by harnessing the properties of emergence. The reframing of problems is explored through a complexity lens and underpinned by stories from the international development sector.

The findings provide insight into how the project managers interviewed currently interpret problems and the resulting approaches to solving them. Their stories outline the themes that populate both the organizational and sectorial narrative of their projects.

The authors of the paper argue that traditional project methods apply control frames and behaviours through which to interpret concepts like problems, but in the real world, adaptable and flexible behaviours are required to tackle them as they evolve in the field. They determine that the traditional “plan and manage” contingency approach is not delivering to these project managers the competencies required to manage their projects.

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  1. Antony della Porta

    Not read the whole article, though seeing Lynn Crawford is the author can believe it has real substance… so totally agree with many of the points… PMs need real “natural agility” in running change initiatives, not stick to a strict process, (they have, with a framework, but not meant to be rigidily followed like a lemming!) – so storytelling is one part of it, similar to Steve Denning’s view in his book “The Springboard”. The approach/principle is the same in the end

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