A system rapidly gaining popularity in projects and business is from Elliott Jaques.  A Canadian psychoanalyst and organizational psychologist, known for developing the notion of Requisite Organization from his 'Stratified Systems Theory'. (Wikipedia, see Elliott Jaques).

The more I study this, the more I realize how complex people and system interactions are within both business and project environments (you cannot have one without the other - so must link both with common platforms).  

Elliott is a supporter of innate, natural based hierarchies, where people can naturally be placed (within a structured strata or set of levels) and then excel as a collaborative group/entity. Align the role with the level of the person to prevent stress and maximize performance and happy quotient.

An article written by Elliott can be found at Harvard business review, called In Praise of Hierarchy .  In this article, he states.... to understand hierarchy, first you must understand employment. 

He continues to help remind us and clarify organizational structure with statements such as.....  To be employed is to have an ongoing contract that holds you accountable for doing work of a given type for a specified number of hours per week in exchange for payment. Your specific tasks within that given work are assigned to you by a person called your manager (or boss or supervisor), who ought to be held accountable for the work you do.

These basic concepts and definitions can be simple, yet they can be sensitive and may lead to people having different understandings.  Another reason as to why so many businesses and projects fail. Much stress is due to mis-understanding of roles, accountability and management interaction".

Can an organizational theory help us manage failure and risk (and Stress!!!)?

The requisite organization theory in its entirety is a great tool that can be leveraged.  It can be quite complex, but two core insights can be considered, as taken from the article:

Insight 1
The first, is about potential capability and has to do with an innate quality of human nature: the amount of complexity that we can handle when we make a decision. This is complex to assess and often takes 100s of interviews and training to accurately assess, but is something objective and scientific when compared to most HR methods and practices. One of the simple indicators is the length of time span that the person works on (how long does the job or task take to be completed, is the person working on 1 day,  1 week, 3 month, 1 year, 7 year, 15 year jobs).  So thus people can be placed into strata, e.g. levels 1 to 7, based on the type of work they do.

Insight 2
The second is about managerial accountability. Every boss is accountable not just for overseeing subordinates, but for their results. It means that if people who report to you "screw up," you can't blame them. You either have to give them the support and coaching they need, or have the authority to rotate them to other posts, because you will be held responsible. A couple interesting aspects of this, is that a manager can refuse an employee that reports to them (have them moved to another job/position), and also the employee should have a Formalized Review Process (development & future growth) which should be managed by the manager once removed (two levels up) and not by the direct manager.

Granted, this type of system should have one key thing..... Trust with Positive Intent. In the end, establish that as much as you can, then remember to create a formal plan (roll out plan) as to how you will integrate systems such as Elliott's (as per above). Understanding and balance of Systems and Psychology will always create new opportunities for learnings and less stress and thus keep project management exciting!!!