• Karoline Nederby
4. term, Communication, Master (Master Programme)
This thesis is based on a description of society as characterized by complexity, which is believed to entail new challenges for people having to wield these new conditions. The specific focus of the thesis revolves around project management under complex circumstances, investigating what consequences and challenges arise in the wake of increased complexity – and consequently analyzing how these new challenges are perceived and addressed by project managers. The thesis is founded on a systemic approach both in theory and empirical research, with German sociologist Niklas Luhmann’s systems theory as the primary inspiration. From a theoretical starting point, the primary challenge in today’s project management is described as rooted in complexity. In systems theory complexity is defined as a surplus of possibilities which consequently leads to increased risk and uncertainty. Under complex circumstances decisions are made without thorough overview of the different possibilities. Any decision made will hence be arbitrary and entail uncertainty as to whether or not the right choice was made. These conditions leave project managers having to deal with risk and uncertainty as integral parts of project management. Based on this understanding of complexity, the thesis consequently argues that not all project managers are prepared to handle and thrive on these complex circumstances. It is further argued that frustration and stress are possible consequences of being confronted with complexity without possessing the ability to handle the situation in a positive way. These assumptions lead the thesis towards an empirical examination of how complexity is perceived and handled differently by different project managers. The empirical part of the thesis is rooted in a constructivist perspective, which means that complexity is believed to appear differently (and hence show different possibilities and limitations) in the eyes of different project managers. A systemic analysis of interviews with two project managers is carried out and makes clear, how different expectations to project management shape the appearance and interpretation of complexity differently to the two project managers. The analysis shows that complexity in one project manager’s communication appears as a frustration, whereas another project manager finds complexity to open new and exciting possibilities. This insight leads the thesis towards deliberation as to how complexity can be handled. In the light of the analysis it is indicated that expectations of order, linearity and precise prediction aren’t suited to handle complexity, whereas it seems expedient under complex circumstances to practise the ability to uncover the immediate circumstances and adapting to these conditions. The main point, however, is emphasized; correlation between the project managers’ expectations and the actual conditions at hand seems key to exercising successful project management. Because expectations seem decisive for the ability to handle and thrive on complexity it is further deemed important to reflect on the different ways project managers’ expectations influence their perception of project management. Systems theory shows us that in no way is it given that the world presents itself to us in a certain way. Hence, to a degree we ourselves form our experience of complexity.
LanguageDanish
Publication date2009
Number of pages77
Publishing institutionAalborg Universitet
ID: 17980502