Hyper-complexity in the management of sustainable projects


Written by Nicol Garzón, Project Manager Coordinator.


The management of sustainable projects in a territory deserves a careful understanding of the complexity of its systems. Multiple interacting systems, composed of different variables and their relationships, converge on the territory, thus defining nodes of hyper-complexity. These nodes can be carefully managed from the collective expertise and ability to recognize the structural variables and asking the right questions before launching a response.

At the different levels of a territory, there are diverse complexities such as social, ecological, geological, edaphological, hydric, and atmospheric complexities, among many others.  These are not simple chapters of environmental impact studies (to give an example) to be presented to environmental authorities; they are a classification that allows us to understand the numerous list of variables that play a part in each territorial system. Additionally, if we add the fact that they are interconnected and are not an exclusive part of a specific classification, we are made aware of the complexity of understanding and working for the territories.

In our industry we have been inclined at different times, to provide simplistic answers for the territory, that spawn from our understanding of urban areas, without pausing to recognize the hyper-complexity of the territory and its issues, and from there, effectively add value to the territory. As humanity, despite the complexity of our thought processes, we usually use filters and lenses that simplify a territory into a handful of variables depending on the interest of the project, given the restrictions of the system: —usually— budget and time.

Faced with this critical scenario of project management in a territory, from an academic standpoint, and with the aim of recognizing the restrictions of entry, as well as the value of the territory, professionals have been investing without fear, in complex solutions for complex situations.

Interdisciplinary studies, a global understanding of projects —with all macro variables and interconnections—, the identification of the structural variables (that lesser number of variables that have an impact on a greater number of variables), and the differentiation between slow variables and fast variables, are usually heavily invested on. This investment is what allows ALLCOT to have a solid, concrete, understanding of the territorial dynamics.

It is in this scenario of a tongue-twisting language, that the purpose of ALLCOT goes beyond the design of environmental projects, by offering complex solutions to complex situations, which connect the territory and its expectations with market requirements.

ALLCOT maintains its focus on the results that add sustainable value to the territories, but recognizes and takes into account the different structural variables according to the territorial dynamics.

To our Project Managers, ALLCOT’s Project management is not a replicable formula; it is a continuous recognition of the uniqueness of each territory, and its challenges, its changing environments, and of high uncertainty. Projects in ALLCOT do not follow a linear logic, but on the contrary respond to the dynamics of change, to the adaptive processes, to the flows of social and ecological resilience and noticeably to market requirements.

Different countries of the world, including governments in Latin America and the Caribbean since 2015, have incorporated sustainable development goals, and the fulfilment of the goals of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change in their agendas, which has encouraged development of policies, programmes and projects in the territory, that either end up in a “picture-perfect result”, or go beyond, by adding collective value. It is here where managers who close the gap between policy and management, after investing in crafting the right questions, can make sustainable development projects a reality, by recognizing the limits imposed by nature, and achieving social prosperity, under the understanding of territorial complexities.

Monica de Oliveira