This is the final theme from the complexity series I began some time ago. Environmental uncertainty complexity impacts the complexity of the project through issues such as the uncertainty of the marketplace for the product and surrounding the project while it is being undertaken; the ways in which the project communicates with its stakeholders; the stakeholders influence over the project and; the political landscape influencing the project and its outcomes.
Marketplace – Many projects are undertaken in corporate and social setting in which the marketplace for the outcomes of the project are uncertain and rapidly changing. You can see responses to this in the way in which software development is undertaken in short cycles under methodologies such as agile. On the other end of the spectrum are projects such as infrastructure developments which are typically performed using techniques developed for more longer term environments, this works well when the project is a road or a similar piece of built environment but is less effective when it is deploying new telecommunications equipment.
Working in marketplace uncertainty it is important that the project scope is regularly monitored and adjusted as needed against the changing market. Not doing so can result in a well delivered project outcome that is no longer relevant to its perceived customers.
Stakeholders – Understanding the ever changing requirements of stakeholders has been a part of the demands of virtually every project yet is often only treated superficially. Many projects consider at depth the demands and expectations of those they consider their key stakeholders, but, in doing so, miss many others who may be influential in more subtle or tangential ways.
Mobile phone manufacturers listen to their current customers who tell them the current features are great and need to be reinforced, but miss the potential users for their product who could tell them about features they would not otherwise have considered – think here of Nokia versions of their handset with more different covers etc. while Apple were busy developing the smartphone which eventually led to the virtually total demise of Nokia.
Politics – Many projects are undertaken in highly political environments. Whether the politics is governmental with a capital P or organisational or social with a lower case p, politics have a major influence over the complexity of almost every project. At its most visible are projects which are initiated with a political agenda, these would include infrastructure development, defense procurement, educational changes and similar and, being politically triggered can find themselves at the mercy of changes in political needs. Roads may get cancelled, defense contracts deferred and educational changes redirected to reflect the needs of new political representation.
Harder to read but often as influential are the corporate politics that impact internal or commercial projects. Organisations may have internal political tensions where one faction may support and another object to a commissioned project, as leadership changes so will the support and commitment to any given project. Along side this are situations where there may be internal tension between project personnel, with some maneuvering to have personnel removed or promoted within or onto a project. All of these changes can be complex to understand and very detrimental to the productivity of a project.
How does a virtual team impact environmental uncertainty complexity
Environmental uncertainty complexity essentially is a reflection of the environment in which a project is undertaken, and it is hard to imagine many facets of a project that can bring more uncertainty than having the team distributed across multiple locations.
Without the ability for all members of the project to experience and things like the political environment in the location the project is being led from, detained inn or is being delivered into it is often very difficult for the team to make the necessary allowances for changes in scope or focus. Similarly a project which may seem incredibly exciting to a distant team may face local financial or stakeholder difficulties in its home location. If these facets subsequently lead to the project being changed, delayed or cancelled, it can be hard for those away form the center of decision making to recognise this. Situations like this can then lead to ongoing issues and even future disconnections between teams.
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