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Financial Times: Today's technical and political uncertainties demand more application of the 'right brain': "Elusive skills that give Shell hope": Tuesday 8 November 2005

 

By Hugh Crail

Published: November 8 2005

From Mr Hugh Crail.

 

Sir, Thomas Catan's article "Elusive skills that give Shell hope" (November 2), about Shell's need to take on projects that are "too large, complex or technically difficult for national oil companies to operate alone", raises some important points for any company faced with managing complex projects as these need careful management.

 

There is an underlying assumption that analysis and procedure are cure-alls for complexity. They are not.

 

The management techniques in use today were developed in the first half of the last century for the large and complicated projects of the time. So called "left brain" analysis and procedure worked reasonably well. At least it made managers feel that they were in control. But projects were arguably less exposed to technical and political uncertainty than they are now. This aspect of complexity demands more application of the "right brain", where people process interpersonal relationships and creativity.

 

Therefore we need to manage different aspects of complex projects in distinctly different ways: standard techniques based on systems analysis for the complicated but reasonably predictable aspects; but less conventional options building on team creativity techniques for the "edge of chaos" aspects.

 

Hugh Crail,

PA Consulting Group,

London SW1W 9SR, UK

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