S4E83: Project management under conditions of inherent uncertainty with Dave Snowden


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By Val Matthews & Dale Foong, Val Matthews, and Dale Foong. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

In this episode, the lads talk to Dave Snowden about his experience and depth of understanding in the fields of knowledge management and complexity theory. Dave is a riveting guest with stories, studies and methods that appeal to the sensible project manager. Moreover, Dave helped connect deeper studies with project management and delivery. This approach of 'sensemaking' just makes sense.

David John Snowden (born 1954) is a Welsh management consultant and researcher in the field of knowledge management and the application of complexity science. Known for the development of the Cynefin framework,[1] Snowden is the founder and chief scientific officer of Cognitive Edge, a Singapore-based management consulting firm specialising in complexity and sensemaking.[2]

Dave is the Director of the Cynefin Centre, Chief Scientific Officer Cognitive Edge. Creator of the Cynefin Framework. Lead author EU Field Guide to managing in Complexity (and crisis). His focus is on naturalising sense-making as an emerging trans-disciplinary field of study.

The main topics we discussed on the podcast were as follows:

  • The world of Project Management is likely to be more uncertain than it is at present
  • We always know more than we can tell and we can tell more than we can write down
  • Most lessons learnt focus on failure rather than success
  • Storytelling is a profession, many people can recount anecdotes, and this is better to document
  • Narrative is a quantitative approach rather than qualitative, it is simply numbered- backed up by explanatory stories
  • It is interesting to compare how decisions are actually made versus how the business believes they are made. This can be done as a process chart
  • Old men are philosophers, old wives tell tales!
  • Many large transportation infrastructure projects go wrong because once a certain level of complexity is reached, you’re beyond the ability to predict therefore design changes need to occur
  • Many organisations employ consultants to manage transformation projects who will use pre-defined solutions rather than adapting to the context
  • Covid has shown there is a large amount of resilience on major projects

Dave is currently working on the application of natural sciences to social systems through the development of a range of methods and the SenseMaker® software suite. He started work in an NGO post-University and then moved onto HR & Training in the late 70s where he started work with computers. That together with a diploma from The Certified Accountants got a job as Development Accountant in the same firm where he headed up the Treasury function and was responsible for computerisation.

An MBA in financial management saw Dave move into consultancy and software designing decision support systems in what became D --- Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/project-chatter-podcast/message

92 episodes