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 Overcoming Complexity Seminar 1 


 Strategies for Avoiding Program Failure 

Event Number



 4/21/2010  to 4/21/2010 


 NDIA, Arlington, VA 


 Betsy Lauer (703) 247-9473 



About this seminar

This one-day seminar presents a practical framework to a growing and fundamental problem – the need to effectively deal with dynamic complexity and emergent behavior when managing complex programs and projects.

Why is this important?

The Standish Group’s 2009 CHAOS Report showed a marked decrease in project success rates with 44% of projects challenged and 24% failed or cancelled prior to completion, or delivered and never used.

From the Big Dig in Boston to large Government modernization programs in the IRS, FAA and DoD, and Toyota recalls, our landscape is littered with large, expensive failures. Why?

Why?  Because dynamic complexity cannot be overcome by the application of linear approaches to nonlinear systems, and yet this is how program and project managers attempt to cope with the problem over and over again!

How would you answer these questions…….

1.  Why do governments and companies invest millions of dollars in systems that are abandoned after being placed in service or are cancelled before deployment?

2.  What is happening when experienced, educated program/project managers encounter unexpected problems, apply well-known corrective actions, only to make the problem worse?

3.  Why are project managers not trained to understand the nature and the impact of interactive complexity?


This seminar does not offer a cookie cutter approach nor is it filled with platitudes or heavy academic theories.   Instead, it will provide you with the practical, street-smart knowledge to deal with the unanticipated, backed up by concrete examples of where understanding complexity analysis applies.  This seminar sets the foundation for building a new framework for understanding complex programs and will lead to your being able to anticipate and mitigate complexity in your programs and projects.

You will be able to apply the principles of complexity that you will learn in this seminar to lead the way out of complex situations that typical project management training does not anticipate.   This knowledge could potentially save your organization millions of dollars.  You will develop an understanding and a practical working philosophy for how to use forensic project management to anticipate and avoid potential patterns that lead to overwhelming complexity.

This seminar promises to deliver proven, practical concepts that you can take back to your work place and begin applying right away in your programs and projects. 

Click here for a PDF version of the brochure

Agenda and Instructors

8:00 AM




Dave Chesebrough, President, AFEI

The Who, What, Why and How of the Day


8:30 AM






Forensic Program Management

Robert C. McCue, P.E. , Consulting Engineer and Principal @ MDCSystems®

What goes wrong and why - the problem to be solved.  Case studies from some well known, and not so well known failures. Examples of and distinctions between of simple, complicated and complex projects.

10:15 AM Break  

10:30 AM






Theory, Study and Application of Complexity

Dr. John Pourdehnad, University of Pennsylvania

This module addresses situational awareness, framework for decision making, integrative(synthetic) program management, and complexity and program leadership.  It explores theory, science and applies systems thinking approaches to the problem of leading out of complexity.

Noon Working Lunch
12:30 PM Continuation of prior module

3:00 PM






Grounding Conceptual Model in Practice

Robert C. McCue, P.E. , Consulting Engineer and Principal @ MDCSystems®

Buck Nimz, Industry Expert on Complex Defense Programs

How is this knowledge applied in practice?  Participants consider the implications of what they have learned and relate these to their own respective programs, projects and experiences.  Discussion of actions and experience to improve the performance of real world programs and projects.

4:30 PM


Summarization -The Big Idea

Facilitated discussion of material and learning objectives.



National Defense Industrial Association
2111 Wilson Boulevard
Suite 400
Arlington, Virginia 22201-3061
Telephone: (703) 522-1820 | FAX: (703) 522-1885


Google Map




Online registration is now CLOSED! If you have any question please contact Betsy Lauer, [email protected] or (703) 247-9473.

 Register by Fax:

1. Download registration form

Registration Form

2. Complete form, including payment information

3. Fax form to (703) 522-3192

Overcoming Complexity
Event Number 0A07



Government Employees (with ID)
and Academia



AFEI Members



AFEI Non- Member



Registration Policy
Please do not fax or mail any registrations after April 19, 2010.  After this date, please bring a registration form with you to the conference to register onsite.  Registrations will not be taken over the phone.  Payment must be made at the time of registration. Group discount available.

Cancellation Policy
Cancellations received before April 7, 2010 will receive a full refund.  Cancellations after April 7 and before April 14 will receive a refund minus a $75 cancellation fee.  No refunds will be given for cancellations received after April 14, 2010.  Substitutions are welcome in lieu of cancellations. Substitutions and cancellations must be made in writing to [email protected].

For Attendees

What you will learn:

Top 7 Learning Objectives

1.  Distinguish 3 types of challenges: cognition, coordination, & collaboration

2.  Apply the principles of complexity to lead the way out of situations that threaten your success 

3.  Recognize interactive complexity in programs & projects

4.  Deal with various complexities in planning and implementation

5.  Use techniques for dealing with impacts of complex interactions on organizational functions, structure, processes, measurement and control

6.  Exercise the leadership talents necessary to effectively deal with complexity

7.  Understand the relationship of complexity to Organizational Learning, Knowledge Management, Program and Portfolio Management, Program Maturity Model, and Human Relations

Who will attend 

Anyone involved in managing complex systems or developing and deliver complex systems to clients, including:

  • Corporate Officers (CEO, CFO, COO, CTO, CIO, CMO, CKO)
  • Corporate Counsel, Construction Attorneys
  • EVP & SVP for Program Management and Control
  • Division Managers and Directors
  • Acquisition Professionals, Contracts Officers
  • Program and Project Managers, Portfolio Managers
  • Systems Developers and Integrators
  • Information Systems Managers and Architects
  • Engagement Delivery Managers
  • Construction and Engineering Firms
  • Services Companies
  • Technology Vendors
  • Technology Services Providers

 Seminar Instructors

John Pourdehnad, Ph.D.
Organizational theorist, consultant, and associate director of the Ackoff Center for Advancement of Systems Approaches at the University of Pennsylvania.

Robert C. McCue, P.E.
Consulting Engineer and Principal @ MDCSystems
Construction arbitrator for the American Arbitration Association, forensic program management specialist and recognized expert in commercial and industrial construction project management systems, engineering standards and codes.

Buck Nimz
Recognized industry expert in the design and implementation of acquisition strategies for complex defense programs. As a former Program and Engineering Manager on complex projects, he understands what it takes to successfully manage and lead multi-discipline teams.

Dave Chesebrough
President, AFEI