Dealing with uncertainty and complex projects: revisiting Klein and Meckling

Tim Brady, Andrew Davies, Paul Nightingale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to review the content and contributions of the article by Klein and Meckling entitled “Application of operations research to development decisions” which was published in the journal Operations Research in May-June 1958. The paper explores the major concepts and contributions in the article and suggests that these are relevant to today's complex and uncertain development projects. Design/methodology/approach – The paper outlines the context in which the research on which the article is based took place and presents the main ideas in the article which relate to decision making in the procurement and development of complex systems. Findings – The paper demonstrates the utility of the concepts in the original article, shows how they have been used in academic research on project management and innovation and that they are still relevant for both practical project management and project-based research. Practical implications – The primary implication is to demonstrate the value of revisiting a classic contribution in project management, in this case, one which remained hidden for a long period, but has recently come to the fore again. Originality/value – The issues raised by the original article – related to decision making under conditions of uncertainty – remain high on the agenda today and revisiting the article may help provide a better appreciation of how to deal with those issues.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)718-736
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Managing Projects in Business
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2012


  • Complex development projects
  • Decision making
  • Uncertainty management


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