Large IT Projects are Complex Adaptive Systems — You need to Manage More & Control Less

Control is an Illusion — YouTube

Forcing control does not work

The insights and research tell us one thing loud and clear — trying to force control on a complex system is challenging. We need to manage the system, and to be able to do that, first, we must know the difference between managing and control.


  1. the power to influence or direct people’s behaviour or the course of events,
  2. a person or thing used as a standard of comparison for checking the results of a survey or experiment.


  1. be in charge of (a business, organization, or undertaking); run.
  2. succeed in surviving or achieving something despite difficult circumstances; cope.

Characteristics of Manage and Control

A bit deeper thought on both these meanings also suggests that:

  • You could have some level of control without any management.
  • Having control by itself does not necessarily mean better management.
  • It takes more knowledge and skill to manage something than control something.
  • Manage is more outcome-oriented with an inherent assumption that things change, whereas control fundamentally expects things to be more or less static, linear, ordered and behaving to set expectations.

Control is an illusion, you infantile egomaniac. Nobody knows what’s gonna happen next: not on a freeway, not in an airplane, not inside our own bodies and certainly not on a racetrack with 40 other infantile egomaniacs.

Listen to Nicole Kidman say this much nicely and with so much passion and conviction.

Simple Rules

Yves Morieux and Peter Tollman, in their book: Six Simple Rules: How to Manage Complexity without Getting Complicated, outline six simple rules to manage better in a complex environment.

The Wrap

Manage a complex system more we must — with just enough control, focusing more on responding to things as they evolve — being forever dynamic, forever adaptive.



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