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14 December 2009

Complexity or Capcacity; what type of problem do you have?

Ron Ashkenas blogged an opinion piece on the US participation in Afghanistan.In it he called out problems as one of two types; problems of capcaciy or complexity.

Capcacity problems are ones that are fixed by adjusting the allocated resoruces.  Complex problems require a creative approach to solving them.  It's a nice idea and one that can help in your problem solving techniques.

Unfortunately most apparent problems we face are made up of many problems of both types bundled together.

For example; the problem of estimating a project presents us with the challenge of getting things done faster (apply more people) and keeping the whole thing integrated and aligned (develop systems, methods and controls.)

The purpose of this post is simply to call out that problems are not EITHER about complexity or capacity, and in reality the problems we have are made up of elements from both dimensions.  We can still use the indicators to help us in our problem solving appraoches, but can't afford to be simplistic in our thinking.

With both complexity and capacity placed into a 5x5 grid you get something that looks, appropriately, like a risk matrix.

Things at the right require a creative approach.  Things up high require interventon on the resourceing (and budget) front.  This can help you decide who to assign to the problem solving and what techniques you need to apply.

Not enough resources?  It's a sponsor issue; as you'll need to adjust scope, schedule or budget.  Stcuk on a complexity problem?  That's probably one for the team.

I wonder whether an assessment on this matrix would align to risk assessments?  There would probably be some correlation, but it may not be a cause and effect relationship.