Dealing with Complexity

spotlightAs the content and program director for the PMI NorCal Symposium 2008, I am biased but nevertheless excited as all get out about the lineup of speakers and activities for this event, happening September 3-4 at the Stanford Faculty Club in Palo  Alto, California (get more information at  Let me share with you some of what is on the program that is creating that excitement.

Our opening speakers are co-authors of Weaving Complexity and Business: Engaging the Soul at Work.  From their first deep metaphor about vernal pools (not a failed pond but a force for ecological good) to the closing plea for care-full organizations (engage people’s stories and dreams; patient and diligent; listen, respond, intuit), this book engaged my mind, feelings, passion, and excitement.  It took awhile to read because I could barely get past one chapter at a time: its extremely relevant contents and powerful examples stirred my reflective energies.  It has since become my all time favorite book.  My second book on Creating the Project Office was inspired by and structured similar to The Soul at Work.

I admit coming to this book already believing in chaos, systems, and feedback systems theory as extremely applicable to business organizations.  My appetite was whetted by Margaret Wheatley’s Leadership and the New Science.  I was looking for tangible examples about how these theories work in business. Roger Lewin and Birute Regine proved to me they can. They further helped me understand and provided a language about complexity science as the zone between stable and chaotic states of complex systems where adaptation and evolution take place.  I am looking forward to finally meeting the authors.

Reviewing the passages I highlighted richly describe fundamental properties about complex systems.  In between are stories of real people who achieved success and how they did it.  Thus, the book is complete in describing the whats, hows, and whys of getting people successfully working together.  It now occupies a prominent place in my repertoire to facilitate teams through complex projects.

Recognizing that business organizations are complex adaptive systems, Roger and Birute show how leaders who embrace the principles of complexity science develop highly innovative and adaptable organizations.  Many businesspeople feel they have to choose between financial success and providing employees with meaningful, fulfilling work.  How do you define your company’s success?  Is it financially-based, with the bottom line the only measure of success?  Or is it people-based, a workplace where employees feel personally fulfilled?  Is this an either-or?  One hand or the other?

How about both?  What if you brought all of the elements together? Companies that are dedicated to enhancing employee relationships are more creative, resilient, and agile.  And the bottom line improves.  One clue about applying complexity science:  be clear on your purpose because that will sustain you and your teams through chaotic times.

Join us at the Symposium to get inspired by these thought leaders, challenge current thinking, and get prepared to transform your organization: starting with your own purpose and place in a chaotic world.

Randy Englund

Englund Project Management Consultancy,


2 thoughts on “Dealing with Complexity”

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    The “Genius of the AND” (as opposed to “Tyranny of the OR”) comes from Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in their book “Built to Last .” I use it often in my talks and courses as well.

    Top performers find ways to do all important things without getting caught up in choosing between important and urgent. The secret is…by focusing on what’s important and getting that done, as opposed to attempting the trivial many tasks, is where the genius appears.

    Randy Englund

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