Domain 7: Responding to emergent complexity (new complexities that develop over time)
The point about emergent change is it’s difficult if not impossible to predict. So this domain is really about how you might build resilience in your staff and your organisation to enable them to respond to things that come up in the future.
Acknowledge unpredictability. Have you left open the possibility that the project might unfold in one of several different ways? Can you flesh out these different possible futures and talk them through with your stakeholders?
Recognise and support self-organisation. Front-line teams will ‘tinker’ – that is, try to adapt the technology and the work process to make them work better locally. Are you able to capture data to evaluate and support these efforts?
Facilitate interdependencies. Have you identified the key interdependencies in the project? Is there anything you can do to strengthen existing interdependencies or develop and strengthen new ones?
Maintain space for experimentation and sensemaking. As complex projects unfold, staff will need to tinker more, and also talk about what’s happening. Encourage them to admit ignorance, explore paradoxes, exchange different viewpoints (there’s no need for them to agree on a single version of the ‘truth’!) and reflect collectively.
Develop adaptive capability in staff and teams. Train your staff to be creative and to adapt to change as it happens. They will sometimes need to make judgements in the light of incomplete or ambiguous data.
Attend to human relationships. Dealing with emergent problems requires give-and-take. It’s sometimes a matter of muddling through. This will happen more easily if people know, like and trust each other.
Harness conflict productively. There is rarely a single, right way of addressing a complex problem, so view conflicting perspectives as the raw ingredients for producing multifaceted solutions.