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Towards a Practice of Systemic Change — Acknowledging Social Complexity in Project Management

Published on Sep 1, 2016in Systems Research and Behavioral Science1.052
· DOI :10.1002/sres.2428
Louis Klein1
Estimated H-index: 1
Abstract
The Anthropocene calls for systemic change which requires much more than good ideas, stakeholder activism and self-organization. Successful change is managed in the form of a project. However, project management itself needs to learn to cope with the systemic complexity of the real world, especially with social complexity. Hence, this paper explores the paradox of reintroducing complexity within a discipline that has professionalized the reduction of complexity. Acknowledging the inevitability of the social aspects in human activity systems, this paper suggests decomposing social complexity along a political and a cultural perspective. This has methodological implications and practical consequences. First, the political stakeholder analysis is enriched with a systemic and ecological view. Second, cultures are interpreted along the lines of meaning-creation and sensemaking, exploring the stories which are the world to us. Thus, navigating systemic change finally embarks on the concept of next practice, promoting a path forward, step by step. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
  • References (11)
  • Citations (1)
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The ecology of paradigms conceptualises an alternative perspective on culture. The focus is on practice and understands culture as the paradigmatic reference of a community of practice. This looks at procedures of self-observation and self-description as well as on the routines of meaning creation and sense making. The perspective brought forward is radical by focussing primarily on communities of practice. And it is amplified by the modern proliferation of roles carried out and played by the in...
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Purpose – This paper seeks to address the need for a comprehensive theoretical reference underlying the concerns of social complexity. The shortcomings of a very powerful yet cognitively biased theoretical model like Luhmann's theory of social systems especially call for the integration of the whole person into conceptualising social complexity. The paper aims to question what the conditions are for the possibility to successfully conceptualise social complexity.Design/methodology/approach – Bas...
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The purpose of this article is to suggest a possible “meta” approach of the project management field—the unit of analysis—respectful of the various perspectives in existence, while providing an integrative ontological and epistemological framework. In order to do so, I first suggest what could be perceived as being the state of the field and its main constituting “school of thoughts.” Then I open the debate on what could be the ontological and epistemological perspectives enabling us to better t...
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This paper explores connections between subjective judgements about uncertainty and corporate culture which are relevant to everyone interested in estimating project parameters or interpreting estimates prepared by others. The basis of the discussion is a simple example, drawn from an actual case. It involves estimating the uncertain duration of a project activity in an organisation with two common cultural conditions: a ‘conspiracy of optimism’, and ‘irrational objectivity’. After considering s...
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