Ambiguity vs Uncertainty

Difference between Ambiguity and Uncertainty when managing project complexity


Ambiguity and uncertainty both refer to situations where there is a lack of clarity or understanding, but they are not the same.


Ambiguity refers to a state of being unclear and can arise from having multiple options and lack of clarity on the best or most appropriate. In other words, when something is ambiguous, it is unclear what it means, and it can be interpreted in more than one way.

Examples of Ambiguity

Here are some examples of ambiguity in project management:

  1. If the requirement is “develop a user-friendly website,” it is unclear what specific features or functionalities should be included.
  2. If two team members are both responsible for the same task, they may end up duplicating efforts or having conflicts over the ownership.


Uncertainty refers to a lack of knowledge or information about a particular situation or outcome. It means that the outcome is unknown and cannot be predicted with confidence. Uncertainty arises when we do not have all the facts or when we cannot accurately assess the probability of different outcomes.Uncertainty includes “unknown unknowns” or “black swan” events, which cannot be predicted.

Examples of Uncertainty

Here are some examples of uncertainty in project management:

  1. Schedule uncertainty: Estimated project schedule can get affected by various factors such as delays, resource availability, and changes in scope.
  2. Budget uncertainty: Estimated project budget can get affected by various factors such as resource costs, unexpected events, and changes in scope.


Both ambiguity and uncertainty can create challenges for decision-making and problem-solving, but they require different approaches to address. Ambiguity often requires more information or clarification, while uncertainty may require contingency planning and risk assessment.

Last updated: January 09, 2024