Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore what the role of individuals' observations is in the implementation of technically complex projects. Design/methodology/approach – Initially essential theoretical information is presented, by reviewing the concepts of systemic view and autopoiesis. Then the notion of communication is described focusing on Niklas Luhmann's theory on communication in social autopoietic systems. After that follows an illustration of the concept of technical complexity in projects. Next notions of problem and problem solving are highlighted. Then follows the main content of this paper; namely descriptions of the concepts of observation and distinction making focusing particularly on the Spencer Brown's ideas of these concepts. And finally, the paper deals with the notion of importance of shared understanding. Findings – The project team members act under the limitations of their subjective observations. However, individuals' observations play an important role in the implementation of technically complex projects. Originality/value – Literature dealing with systems – projects in this case – has largely ignored the problem of the observer simply discussing the characteristics of different types of systems as if they were observer‐independent. Obviously, there seems to be a need to shed new light on the issues: observer and observation.
International Journal of Managing Projects in Business – Emerald Publishing
Published: Mar 29, 2013
Keywords: Systemic view; Autopoiesis; Communication; Complexity; Observation; Problem solving
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