Measuring Complexity

Lester had just returned, “That’s it boss, all done, what’s next?”

And with those innocent words, Lester has just defined the time-span for that specific task. Why is the time-span of a task so critical to the definition of that task? It is an attribute often overlooked. Time, hey, it takes what it takes.

For simple tasks, that take less than a day, or even 2-3 days, the importance of time-span is not so critical, but extend the time-span of a task (or a role) out to a week, out to a month, out to three months, and the dynamics become interesting.

What differences are there between a task that takes 3 days to complete and a task that takes 3 months to complete? In one word, predictability. Most of the elements required to complete a 3 day task are known, very specific, very concrete. Some of the elements required to complete a 3 month task may be unknown or may change prior to the completion of the task. This predictability (or unpredictability) is what makes one task more complex than another. “Yeah, so what’s the big deal about that?”

The “big deal” is that time-span, as an indicator for complexity, can become a discrete unit of measure for the complexity of any task. How complex is a task? If you can describe the time-span of the task, you have just described the complexity of the task. The importance of this measurement is that time-span can be described very specifically. I may not know how to specifically measure the “complexity” of a task or project, but using time-span, I can nail it to the wall: This project has a three-month time span with a deadline of February 15.


  • If I can measure the complexity of a project using time-span, can I select a Project Manager using time-span?
  • If I can determine the maximum time-span of a person, can I determine suitability for a role in our company?
  • Can I test a person on the basis of time-span , as they grow and mature, to determine capability for more responsibility?

Hint: the answer is yes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.