the 'Tipping Point to Failure'
"The truth is
rarely pure and never simple...."
Wilde (The Importance of Being Earnest, 1895)
Tipping Point, Scheduling, Planning, Quality.
the 'Tipping Point to Failure' [P143]
‘on the promise’ to meet client and stakeholder
expectations requires project organisations that are capable of
accomplishing the work! Whist this statement is obvious, most
organisations remain blissfully unaware of Gladwell’s tipping
point. The tipping point marks the boundary between linear
changes and catastrophic change and unfortunately, it is impossible to
predict where a tipping point may occur until after it has been reached.
The reason this is an important consideration for all project managers
and project organisations is that leading up to the tipping point,
increases in project complexity have predictable increases in
difficulty and the situation is manageable. Once the tipping
point is reached, the situation flips from predictable and manageable
to unmanageable within the current context. New paradigms are needed to
first stabilise the situation, then recover. But there is no
fixed point for the change; the tipping point is influenced by the
capability of the performing organisation and its people and the degree
of complexity of the work they are asked to accomplish.
The degree of complexity associated with the work of the project
increases exponentially and is influenced by a combination of its
inherent size, technical difficulty, intensity, and the surrounding
stakeholder relationships. The complexity quotient. Each performing
organisation can manage a level of complexity based on its prior
experience, maturity, supporting systems and the capability of the
people managing the work. As long as the ‘complexity
quotient’ is within the management capability of the organisation
and the people it deploys, reasonably predictable outcomes can be
expected and normal risk management practices are likely to be
Change any of these parameters to the point where the overall tipping
point is reached and there is a sudden breakdown that causes a
significant negative change in the likely project outcomes. Recovery is
no longer a simple process of marginally increasing the resources
deployed, what’s needed is a massive change in the capability of
tipping point is not fixed for any organisation, by developing improved
systems and acquiring experience the organisation can grow to be
capable of managing larger, more complex projects. The challenge is to
achieve this growth without running into a tipping point.
the concept of a ‘complexity
quotient’ and identify elements that are controllable by the
organisation such as optimising the amount of information in the
project control systems.
- Examines the concept
of the tipping point and highlights the role of
project 'control' systems in identifying potential early warning
indicators that may be used to see the 'tipping point' approaching.
how an organisation can deal with a project
that has ‘tipped’ either as the consequence of an
unforeseeable event, a ‘black swan’, or through an
inexorable build up of complexity within the work. The concept of
organisational resilience is defined.