This book, Managing the Unknown, from INSEAD Professors Loch, DeMeyer and Pich, makes two main contributions to understanding the management of novel projects with uncertainty. Typically, novel initiatives with high competitive significance have these characteristics yet, performance of such projects is often poor.
First, a different way of looking at the problem of managing novel projects is offered: rather than working harder, straining to consider more possibilities in planning and formal risk management, the authors propose that one must recognize that project novelty fundamentally renders planning approaches insufficient. In such cases, project managers must make use of two fundamentally different approaches to project management: learning, or a flexible adjustment of the project approach as one learns more about the project, its environment and their interactions (as opposed to a contingent approach that utilizes planned 'trigger points'), and selectionism, or pursuing multiple approaches independently of one another and picking the best one ex post.
Second, these approaches must be managed differently from each other and from the traditional planning approach; they require different project mindsets, different project infrastructures, and different supplier and stakeholder relationships. Organizations must be aware of these differences if they are to build the organizational capabilities critical to managing novel projects and to properly support these novel projects within an often hostile environment.
The book offers a conceptual framework of looking at these management approaches, managerial examples, and actionable recommendations on what to do.
John Wiley, 2006