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Delay and disruption in complex projects

Howick, S.M. and Ackermann, F. and Eden, C. and Williams, T.M. (2008) Delay and disruption in complex projects. In: Encyclopedia of Complexity and Systems Science. Springer Reference . Springer, New York, USA, pp. 1845-1854. ISBN 978-0387758886

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There are many examples of complex projects suffering massive time and cost overruns. If a project has suffered such an overrun there may be a need to understand why it behaved the way it did. Two main reasons for this is (i) to gain learning for future projects or (ii) because one party of the project wishes to claim compensation from another party and thus is trying to explain what occurred during the project. In the latter case, system dynamics has been used for the last 30 years to help to understand why projects behave the way they do. Its success in this arena stems from its ability to model and unravel complex dynamic behavior that can result in project overruns. Starting from the first use of system dynamics in a claim situation in the late 1970's [2], it has directly influenced claim results worth millions of dollars. However, the number of claims which system dynamics has been involved in is still small as it is not perceived by project management practitioners as a standard tool for analyzing projects. System dynamics has a lot to offer in understanding complex projects, not only in a post‐mortem situation, but it could also add value in the pre‐project analysis stage and during the operational stage of a project.