Peter Senge, in The Fifth Discipline defines two types of complexity. Dynamic and Detail complexity.

Detail Complexity is defined in the book as 'the complexity in which there are many variables'.

The whole quote is below:

The reason that sophisticated tools of forecasting and business analysis, as well as elegant strategic plans, usually fail to produce dramatic breakthroughs in managing a business - they are all designed to handle the sort of complexity in which there are many variables: detail complexity. Peter Senge (The Fifth Discipline)

Researching more into what this means I have come to understand that Detail Complexity is simply a category for complexity where there are lots of variables or moving parts involved.

Dynamic Complexity, on the other hand is a category for complexity where the cause and effects are more subtle - the effect is not immediately obvious at the time the cause is introduced, however over time as several causes build up and the effect becomes more obvious. A good example is revealed to players of the Beer Game.

A good quote from the book is below:

The second type is dynamic complexity, situations where cause and effect are subtle and where the effects over time of interventions are not obvious. Conventional forecasting, planning and analysis methods are not equipped to deal with dynamic complexity. The real leverage in most management situations lies in understanding dynamic complexity not detail complexity. Peter Senge (The Fifth Discipline)

When dealing with complexity it is important to be able to distinguish and categorize the two, so that the right solution can be applied. Dynamic Complexity, by its' nature is harder to see but having an awareness of what it is and how it can manifest can help address it.

This article was first noted down on the 5th of July, 2015.