The challenge of... leading complex projects

In a world facing rapid change, radical innovations and huge challenges, complex projects are a vital way in (the means by) which the objectives not just of organisations, but of entire nations, are achieved. When the stakes involve lives, livelihoods, public health, climate change, etc., the successful leadership of complex projects has never been more critical.

Organisations often articulate their approach to this challenge as…

  • advanced project management
  • strategic project management
  • complex project management
  • major project management
  • managing a project
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Defining a stakeholder

Project management is the application of processes, methods, skills, knowledge and experience to achieve specific project objectives according to the project acceptance criteria within agreed parameters. Project management has final deliverables that are constrained to a finite timescale and budget. A key factor that distinguishes project management from just ‘management’ is that it has this final deliverable and a finite timespan, unlike management which is an ongoing process. Accordingly, project professionals need a wide range of skills; often technical skills, and certainly people management skills and good business awareness. (APM Body of Knowledge)

Examples of stakeholders
  • Transport infrastructure: HS2, Crossrail, Lyon Turin Railway, California HighSpeed Rail
  • Energy: new nuclear power stations, gas pipelines, off and onshore windfarms
  • Defence: Submarine, Type 26 Frigate
  • Major events: hosting the Olympic Games or Football World Cup
  • Software: enterprise software implementations
  • Organisational change: mergers & acquisitions

Real world challenges

Prendo’s customers face many challenging situations when leading complex projects:

Our project management methodology and tools are not very well suited to the more complex and unpredictable projects we work on
Not many of our project leaders have actually experienced the full lifecycle of our more complex projects, given the long timescales involved
There are so many moving parts and interrelationships between them that we really don’t feel in control of our more complex projects
Complex projects are dynamic systems, and traditional efforts to capture knowledge about them (e.g. articles, papers, books, reports) have limits for helping people understand such systems
We don’t usually learn from our experience of managing complex projects – we don’t really understand what caused what, or the overall picture of cause & effect, especially on the more complex and long timescale projects

Advanced simulations can help leaders address these real world challenges

At Prendo, we believe that the complex skills and deep understanding that are needed for leading complex projects are best developed with advanced simulations that provide accelerated experiential learning and the opportunity to explore the underlying cause and effect models.

Talk to us to understand if our simulations can address your specific challenges

Learning to lead complex projects

To address the challenge of leading complex projects, leaders need a combination of skills (know-how) and understanding (know-that), in the same way that the driving test combines the practical and the theory:

leaders need to be able to…

  • juggle a mix of technical, business and human challenges simultaneously, and take a holistic view
  • influence others and balance conflicting stakeholder interests
  • define what ‘success’ is: reconcile time-cost-quality vs benefits realisation and meet client expectations; strike a balance between short-term gain and long-term organizational, financial and social goals
  • judge the trade-offs when defining and changing the scope, deciding on a contract, making resource choices, managing risks and evaluating business outcomes
  • apply intuition, emotional intelligence and empathy
  • build relationships and maintain trust
  • deal with ambiguity, uncertainty, risk and unknown unknowns
  • work with long timescales

leaders need to understand…

The connections between:

  • scope choices and task parameters & the business model & stakeholder opinions
  • resourcing and contract choices and task parameters
  • task outcomes and business model

The principles underlying:

  • scope management
  • risk analysis and risk management
  • change control

Lead complex projects more effectively
with these simulation workshops:

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