We argue that a gap exists between the interpretivist paradigm of research and the linear approach
predominant in project management and that there is value in considering project management through the
perspective of complexity theory. We suggest that project managers often work in social systems that are not
well accommodated within conventional project management methodologies, but these situations are well
described within a complexity paradigm.
We investigate dimensions of complexity and the resulting implications on project and project management
methodologies. The complexities of projects and what actually makes a project complex are examined,
alongside known methodologies and their limitations in such contexts. The need to complement known
project delivery methods with tools for understanding complex social adaptive systems is demonstrated. The
timing and reasons for using interpretivist approaches to complement established project methodologies are
explored. The reasons why project success cannot be limited to the traditional definitions of success around
time, cost and scope are further discussed.
We finally examine complexity theory as providing the dimension of learning and adaptation that is required
to successfully interpret uncertainty. Project management methodologies may be useful in aiding the delivery
of projects in known, linear and determinable systems, but when these exist in social systems that are nonlinear and unknown, learning and adaptation are imperative