IPMA International Project Management Association
21 November 2018 / 9:00

Brexit and the Moon Landing from a Project Complexity Perspective: A Comparative Case Study

Authored by: Professor Dr. Roland Alter

With the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom on June 23, 2016, a majority of voters decided that the country should leave the European Union, resulting in the formal start of the exiting process on March 29, 2017. During the discussions in the run up to the referendum, the complexity of the undertaking itself was rarely an issue. The subsequent statement by Brexit-Secretary of State David Davis that the complexity of the moon landing would be dwarfed by the complexity of Brexit puts the undertaking into a new perspective and is the starting point for a comparison. Based on the concept of an intrinsic case study with the focus on learning and pattern identification, the comparison is carried out by using a framework of four complexity levels: (1) objective (2) relative (3) subjective and (4) dynamic complexity. The comparison concludes that both projects are characterized by extraordinarily high objective complexity. The difference emerges with respect to the subsequent levels. NASA was aware of the deficiencies and worked systematically to close the gap through professional project management. Brexit, on the other hand, is characterized by widespread ignorance of complexity without a systematic approach to close a dynamically widening complexity gap.

Link to the full paper: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/328291589_Brexit_and_the_moon_landing_from_a_project_complexity_perspective_A_comparative_case_study



1 Comment

  • Peter Gillhoff says:

    Very good comparison between two different project executions. The classification in level 1 to 4, with a successful knowing project (Moon Landing) with a still open project (Brexit) brings us in a position to get a forecast¸ do we have a basis for a successful Project or a running project with accidental chance.
    The methodology (Level 1 to Level 4) is particularly suited to a retrospective analysis.

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Reinhard Wagner

Author of this post

Reinhard Wagner has been active for more than 30 years in the field of project- related leadership, in such diverse sectors as Air Defense, Automotive Engineering, and Machinery, as well as various not-for-profit organizations. As a Certified Projects Director (IPMA Level A), he has proven experience in managing projects, programmes and project portfolios in complex and dynamic contexts. He is also an IPMA Certified Programme and Portfolio Management Consultant, and as such supports senior executives in developing and improving their organizational competence in managing projects. For more than 15 years, he has been actively involved in the development of project, programme and portfolio management standards, for example as Convenor of the ISO 21500 “Guidance on Project Management” and the ISO 21503 “Guidance on Programme Management”. Reinhard Wagner is Past President of IPMA and Chairman of the Council, Honorary Chairman of GPM (the German Project Management Association), as well as Managing Director of Tiba Managementberatung GmbH.