Can project management learn anything from studies of failure in complex systems?

Over the past two decades, technology systems have evolved into highly complex tools. And the effort to develop each new generation involves increasingly complex risks that could--if the system fails--undermine an organization's operational stability. While studying this evolution, researchers have learned why such systems fail; they also discovered that organizations which practiced an interventionist approach to managing the complexity within these projects reduced their potential for project failure. This article references this research in examining three case studies on managing complex engineering projects, studies that show the organizational impact of using ongoing targeted interventions to prevent project failure. It first reviews the literature to explain why technology projects fail and outline which management approaches enable organizations to avoid failure, improve safety, manage complexity, resolve multi-nodal challenges, and integrate centralized project authority and interventions.
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