The balance between order and chaos in multi-project firms

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According to Geraldi (2008), many management and organisational models state that an organisation is successful if it manages to combine organisational creativity and innovation with mechanical efficiency. However, most Project Based Organizations find it difficult to achieve this. The desire to avoid inefficiency and the urge to minimise uncertainty and risks increases the degree of control and bureaucratisation, which often means a decrease in creativity and flexibility.

Along the project life-cycle, employees face diverse types of challenges. Projects tend to emerge as chaotic systems, as projects start with an unique idea, the project scope is still not clearly defined, project stakeholders are not sure of its feasibility, the contract linking possible parties still does not exist, authority and responsibilities are not clearly defined, the new members of the project are still getting to know each other and identifying the best form of cooperation, etc. Thus, projects are still in chaos, i.e. formless or disordered, or at least, significantly less defined and formalised than the subsequent phases of the project. The following phases clearly demand higher levels of order. Procurement, production and assembly – involve many companies and people; consequently the decentralization of authority and responsibility is necessary to cope with the amount of work to do on time. The final phases demand a very high coordination of tasks and companies on site, and consequently, well defined structures and clear responsibility, but still with some flexibility for unpredicted issues that frequently emerge on site.

Thus, projects demand both mechanic and organic paradigms, both order and chaos; in other words, the management of projects faces different challenges and requires organizations with different degrees of flexibility.
This paradox is especially pronounced in multi-project companies – companies such as software development, engineering consulting, plant engineering companies, civil engineering, event management. These companies have projects as their main function and source of turnover. Consequently, these companies deal with the different types and intensities of complexity in projects, as well as among different types of projects in the company’s portfolio, between projects and supporting functions, as well as among subsidiaries, acquired and merged companies, and relevant project partners. Such heterogeneity demands structures with different degrees of flexibility.

FLOW MPM helps multi project organizations to balance between order and chaos. While developing and executing the projectplan we are aware in which phase you are in and deal with the uncertainty coming from the edge of chaos and strive for balance between order and chaos.

Jan Willem Tromp

GERALDI, J. 2008. The balance between order and chaos in multi-project firms: A conceptual model. International Journal of Project Management, 26:348-356.

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