Is it complex? Or is it complicated?

In this week’s Weekly Inspection, we recognize that different types of problems require different approaches.

The distinction is significant. We don’t solve complex problems the same way that we solve complicated problems. We don’t manage complex systems the same way that we manage complicated systems.

Complicated problems are solved through meticulous specification, planning and execution.
Complex problems are solved through discovery and experimentation.

Complicated things have many moving parts, but the parts are all well understood. Materials, assembly, and machinery are concepts that that can be manipulated with certainty.
Complex things have many moving parts, but those parts are not well understood or understandable. People, ideas, and creativity are not guaranteed to yield predictable, pre-specified results.

Replicating something is complicated.
Reconceiving something is complex.

Complicated systems are managed to optimize efficiency.
Complex systems are guided to optimize the discovery and delivery of value.

Assembling an iPhone is complicated.
Creating the first iPhone was complex.

Manufacturing a 757 is complicated.
Flying a 757 is complex.

Distributing a major motion picture on BluRay is complicated.
Producing a major motion picture is complex.

Management wants software development to be complicated.
Software developers know that it’s complex.

Have an idea for the weekly inspection? I’d love to hear it – @johnkrewson

John Krewson

John started Sketch in service to the mission of improving the ways people and teams work together. His past experiences as an agilist and professional actor are the primary sources of inspiration in leading this mission.

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