The role of system dynamics in project management
Whereas the traditional project management tools provide useful support, their underlying models often seem to bear little relation to actual projects. The traditional approaches tend to assume that if each element of the project can be understood then the whole project may be controlled. However, experience suggests that the interrelationships between the project's components are more complex than is suggested by the traditional work breakdown structure of project network. An alternative view of the project is offered by system dynamics which concentrates on the whole project. The approach emphasises the interrelationships that may be responsible for unexpected overrun and overspend. System dynamics has been applied in a number of projects in diverse industries, providing a basis for a comparison with the traditional approaches. It offers valuable strategic lessons for project management and should be seen as complementary to the detailed operational support supplied by the traditional techniques. This paper contrasts the characteristics of the two approaches and provides an overview of various areas of application of system dynamics in project management. It highlights the distinctive contribution that system dynamics can make to project management, while emphasising that the more traditional techniques still have a vital role.