The multiproject system described above displays the characteristics of a complex system in the following respects:
High coupling: Any intervention is likely to affect something somewhere else.
Time lagging and nonlinear responses: The results of an intervention take time to materialize and when they do, they do not materialize at a constant rate of progress.
The true state of the system is unknowable: The current state of the system can only be inferred, its most likely evolution only guessed at. The presence of many actors, each with his or her own agenda and opinion about what should be done and when, and whose behavior is conditioned by the behavior of others, contributes to the fact that the system resists reductionistic analyses.
Thus, the multiproject system is inherently unstable; the best advice one can give on how to manage it is to avoid getting into trouble in the first place, because once one gets trapped in the vicious circle it is very difficult to get out.
Repenning, Gon alves, and Black  argue that every organization has a tipping point, a threshold that determines how much development and how much problem fixing an organization can handle, which once crossed causes fire fighting to spread rapidly from a few isolated projects to the entire organization. The cornerstone of their theory is that the more up-front work done in a project, the less difficulties encountered downstream (see Figure 2.4). Based on this model, Repenning, Gon alves, and Black produced the chart shown in Figure 2.5. In this figure we see that the development system behaves either like a virtuous or a vicious circle, depending on how much up-front work is done in the current year in support of next year's projects.
Figure 2.4: Feedback structure of multiproject product development. (After: .)
Figure 2.5: Execution modes in a multiproject environment. (After: .)
So other things being equal, in a fire-fighting situation desperate interventions lead to more desperate measures, which justify bringing in more firefighters, which leads to more fire fighting, which leads to more extreme measures.