System Dynamics in Project Management

Project Management Lifecycle
Project Management Lifecycle (Photo credit:

The following is taken out of the summary of an old PhD thesis from 1984(!) by Abdel-Hamid:

The results come from the modeling of a generic project including interactions with the “outside” e.g. management – based on interviews and a case-study:

  1. Different schedules create a different project. i.e. you cannot decide, if one method is more accurate.
  2. The optimal QA expenditure level is 16% of development days
  3. Brooks’ Law is not universal: adding more persons makes a project more costly, but not necessarily to complete later

Summary of a fruitful LinkedIn discussion

Ref: How Does It Help?

Jay: From a systems thinking perspective, the entire project can be viewed as an integrated “system,” where each of the aspects/elements identified in the framework is a component of the overall system.

Jay:  Linking the simulation activities/effort to the actual project management activities can potentially overburden the PM process with tasks and activities that are not in keeping with the need to manage the project.

T.A.: As project managers begin to think about the goals of the project, they should also think about how the finished product meets customer needs, how it satisfies corporate goals, how it compares to competitive products, and it might be managed so that it motivates co-workers.

Mirko: Good project managers (PM) will intuitively “model” the project as a system while thinking about the plan/risks etc. With System Thinking the PM scope is extended to the “outside” and the “how”.

Jonathan: Projects often coexist with other projects. They may even compete with them for resources. Would it not be beneficial to understand the dynamic that determines how those resources are applied?

Duane: “Setting up” a project is not a PM task. That is more the realm of a business analyst or product manager, with the guidance of an architect. A project manager is typically not even assigned until the project has already been “set up” and approved.

Jay: According to PMI’s structured approach to conducting a project, there are five stages: Initiation, Planning, Execution, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing. It’s actually in the first stage when a project begins to take shape against the requirements/needs of the business. And it’s at that very beginning point where a Project Manager needs to be present and fully participative… even before a project team is selected. In the context of best practices, the PM would play a key role (working together with a project sponsor and key subject matter experts) in helping to build the case-for-action (aka project justification or business case).

Mirko: In a “traditional” (PMI) setup the PM will lead all roles and takes over the customer/line communication. In alternative setups, e.g. Scrum, these responsibilities may be split between product owner and scrum master.

Duane: I’m a proponent of the focus of ST at the enterprise level (and pre-project level) rather than the project level.

Related articles

System Dynamics in Project Management

Being Agile at Organizational Scale

There are many books and posts about agile teams. Doing Scrum or Kanban is a state-of-the-art in software development. But, how does it scale in big organizations? How can agile methods cross department boarders?

I’ve found some answers on the web. In upcoming blogs I’ll go into more details.

Here’s my list of the methods with links to further reading:

Please give me some feedback, if I missed some relevant approaches.

Mirko Blüming


Being Agile at Organizational Scale