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SIG Session [clear filter]
Thursday, August 6

13:30 CEST

Innovating Research Methods to Understand Flexibility in Complex Projects

In this paper we discuss how when we innovate in the way we examine the nature of the relationships and combinations between the elements in equifinal and multifinal pathways, we can identify ways of making innovation projects more flexible and therefore more successful. To initiate a discussion on this topic we illustrate an example with a short vignette.

Academics and practitioners suggest that project failure is caused by rigid conventional project management methods that fail to capture the serendipitous, evolutionary and experimental nature of complex innovation projects. There is general agreement that innovative projects need to be ‘flexible’ to be successful. There is a general trend in research studies to focus on either flexible project planning and/or on flexible product specifications but there are but few suggestions that flexibility lies in the management of equifinal and multifinal processes taking a complexity perspective. Therefore, satisfactory explanations have been hindered by a weakness within project management methodologies to conceptualize complexity. In this chapter we will suggest methods that could enable researchers to investigate flexibility in equifinal and multifinal processes as well as ideas about how these methods could be embedded in current research practice.

Equifinality and multifinality are useful concepts to investigate multiple trajectories to reach goals. Equifinality occurs when "a system can reach the same final state, from different initial conditions and by a variety of different structures/processes paths." We can equate equifinality as the concept of convergence: Multifinality refers to designing a system (organization) where individual actors or its subsystems meet their own goals while the system as a whole also meets its goals. Attaining varied outcomes from parameters in an interconnected system is divergence. 

Both equifinality and multifinality are faculties of complex systems, and they both defy the definition of a precisely planned and meticulously implemented process completely controlled or predicted by initial conditions. For this reason their investigation in management generally and project management particularly has been put off – it is tied with the investigation of causal complexity within convergent/divergent project structures/processes, and this investigation has been hindered by the absence of complexity methods that suit social enquiry. We explain the reasons why complexity enquiry in project management is hindered. we define the elements of both equifinality and multifinality, based from a complexity perspective, to be: 

Equifinality = Convergence of pathways

Multifinality = Divergence of pathways

E/M pathway = initial conditions / regulation (from feedback) / contingency / outcome

In our vignette example, the determination of which pathways are optimal comes as a result of integrating regulatory mechanisms coming from feedback loops within the pathways. Regulation will not only show us multiple pathways but can also help to ensure that contingencies are controlled, and mechanisms are put in place to detect and address breakdowns. It is important to note that regulatory mechanisms, in general, can be extremely varied and irregular and for this reason configurational methods can be used to assess the optimal equifinal and multifinal pathways. It is the proposition in this study that the location of flexibility or the lack of it can be detected in the nature of the relationship between the elements in the equifinal/multifinal pathways. By this we mean that these elements are configured (combined in various relations) in a phenomenon called causal complexity within which their interdependence creates unique sequence of events. 

Presenter / Artist

Maria Kapsali

Lecturer, University of Hull
ISSS Regular

Thursday August 6, 2015 13:30 - 14:00 CEST
Stockholm 2 Scandic Berlin Potsdamer Platz, Gabriele-Tergit-Promenade 19, 10963 Berlin, Germany

14:00 CEST

Systemic Project Practice: Integrating Agile and Conventional Project Management Perspectives

In light of the current increase of complexity in projects, project management is stuck in a pre-paradigmatic phase. More tools, concepts and methodologies abound without increasing the manageability of projects. Plenty of conventional and agile project management approaches exist that speak their own language and establish own perspectives on how to run projects. This paper claims that a systemic project practice is necessary to balance the individual approaches, contributing to a coherent and practical management approach. More of the same research, tools, concepts and methodologies do not lead anywhere. We can always provide bigger picures, more details or alternative perspectives. The systemic perspective brought forward in this paper provides a detailed understanding why remaining in separate project management discourses only increases complicatedness instead of practicality. Moving toward a systemic project practice means an integration of the existing approaches and more effective manageability of project complexity through reflective project management praxis.

Presenter / Artist
avatar for Steve Raue

Steve Raue

Consortial Partner & Director of Operations, The Systemic Excellence Group
Steve Raue is an expert for change and project management as well as organisational ethnography. He has been part of SEgroup since 2011 and is its Director of Operations.Steve Raue studied cultural analysis at the University of Lund, in Sweden. In the German Association for Project... Read More →

Thursday August 6, 2015 14:00 - 14:30 CEST
Stockholm 2 Scandic Berlin Potsdamer Platz, Gabriele-Tergit-Promenade 19, 10963 Berlin, Germany

14:30 CEST

A Moderating Role of the Sustainability in Lean Production Systems: A Longitudinal Case Study Analysis

Purpose – The puropse of this paper is to explore the extent to which principles of lean product development are applied to product design and engineering at production systems in Italian medium sized firms. “Lean thinking”, with its focus on the elimination of waste for the improvement of flow, and on continuous improvement has profoundly influenced many aspects of manufacturing, (Womack and Jones, 1996; León and Farris, 2011). The effectiveness improvements to be gained from a lean approach to manufacturing processes will, however, be limited by the development and engineering of the product. Much of the literature and research on lean product development (LPD) has looked at individual aspects for improvement of product design and development (PD&D) processes. This study inserts itself in the literature that compares the efficiency of individual performance evaluation.

With the problems associated with over-emphasising process control, ambidexterity appreciates a need to engage in exploratory learning to adequately adapt to environmental changes. Koskinen and Vanharanta (2002) for example, suggest that purposeful learning through explicit knowledge learnt through books and databases, and tacit knowledge gained through experience, may be particularly important in the initial stages of exploratory learning. Argyris (1977) similarly suggest that exploratory learning aids in ensuring that organisations address the needs of the customer more effectively rather than simply operating more efficiently. However, over expenditure on exploratory learning can result in the pursuit of flexibility at the expense of short-term profitability (Miles et al., 1978). To address this, it is necessary for firms to develop appropriate organisational processes and dynamic capabilities that support adaptation at a rate that reflects their operating environment (Eisenhardt and Martin, 2000). From a dynamic capabilities perspective, Anand et al. (2009) stated that without appropriate resources allocated to breakthrough process innovations, firms may have difficulties in sustaining improvements. In this study we give specific attention to project-level processes, emphasising the impact of the operating environment of each firm. Depending on a particular business environment, the ability of firms to engage in process innovation can have dramatic effects on firm performance, compared to firms with greater emphasis on cost based competition (Levinthal and March, 1993). 

Presenter / Artist

Maria Rosaria Marcone

Researcher, Polytechnic University of Marche
ISSS One Day

Thursday August 6, 2015 14:30 - 15:00 CEST
Stockholm 2 Scandic Berlin Potsdamer Platz, Gabriele-Tergit-Promenade 19, 10963 Berlin, Germany