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Your task is to consider:-

The causes, environments, and properties of complex projects;
Different tools and techniques to aid a project manager manage complex projects;
The degree and nature of the projects cases discussed in the unit in the context of the theories and ideas related to complex projects.

Then you must write an essay describing how you consider the points above are related to:-

  • Projects with lots of parts and interconnections;
  • Projects that contain a great deal of uncertainty;
  • Project that are heavily time-constrained.

You should illustrate your points by identifying what are the causes, theories, tools and techniques, that might be relevant to complex projects. You should use examples taken from case studies and examples discussed during the unit.

The primary purpose of this assessment item is to help you to be able to define your thinking and allow you to classify the tools and techniques related complex project management. The secondary purpose of this assignment is to give you the opportunity to enhance your analysis, critical thinking and written communication skills; particularly in the areas of argument development and essay writing.

Causes of project complexity

Complex project management involves managing risks and ambiguity in conveying project outcomes. This includes the risks of unforeseen and irrevocable developing effects that intensify rapidly (Mehta 2007). Complex projects mostly involve various countries with diverse cultures and views. Project teams are multidisciplinary and virtual and they draw their expertise from governments, their industries and international partners. The innovation of information technology and communication systems has made it possible for project team members to participate and influence the decision-making process of complex projects (Grisham 2013). The fundamental complication of projects is somehow compelled by technological, social, political and environment issues, this coupled with the consumer expectations which is constantly changing. Complex projects are characterized by unpredictability, progressive decision making, a grade of dismay, iterative planning and design, indiscretion, nonlinear processes, and uncertainty. Managers are moving from the traditional dimension models into the five-dimensional model of project management to help them maximize the potential for successful project implementation. The strategy of project management basically involves planning, designing and building, operating, and delivering a successful project (The essentials of project management 2006). Complex projects inclined to extensively run through the lifespan of their know-hows. Complex projects are accomplishments for which traditional approaches, observation, frameworks are insufficient in relation to; heterogeneity, multiple pathways, the change scale, and objective ambiguity, complex project management essentially should gauge and understand project context, critical aspects, alliance, mergence, and the confluence at numerous sections of intermediation beside the lifecycle of the plan to uphold elasticity through organizational swiftness and project flexibility, thus maximizing its probabilities of success (Metcalfe and Sastrowardoyo 2013).

Human behavior, it is the major source of complexity in projects. The involvement of human resources on projects causes problems throughout the project phases. It is people that formulate and oversee the implementation of projects, therefore they also contribute to the failure or success of projects (Baccarini 2004). Examples of human behaviors are: Stakeholders with impracticable anticipations, stakeholders who misinterpret the projects objectives, reduced or missing exclusive sponsorship, concealed agenda of some of the team members, ethical dilemmas like bribing, stakeholders who stage down, or are detached creating instability of the project, and serious information being withdrawn intentionally from the team members leading to improper implementation of the project (Davidson Frame 2014). Project managers should consider project team skills, learning culture, structure, flexibility, and track record, and creativity, and leadership competency of every member of the project.

A system is a collection of dissimilar modules that when composed yield results that are not attainable by the modules when they are separated. The project becomes complex as the connections between the components increases. Dependency on diverse parts of the system that have a high overlapping degree on each other require expert to work between the concerned members to get work packages so as to deal with this dependency as they cannot be autonomous. The project management should introduce strategies that incorporate the whole system as well the components are interconnected (Kemp 2004).

These are unclear situations that rise because one does not know what to expect or in what way to retort to it. Developing ambiguity comes up as unforeseen change that happens in the context of a project. This is as a result of the interconnections and the dynamic shifts of the environment. Also, it involves how the management of affirmative and undesirable risks are being handled (Jonas 2010). Complex projects are bound to have ambiguous aspects in them and therefore project managers should install quality control methods to help in anticipating for situations that might rise within the complex system. The task of governance deals with superior ambiguity and ambiguity that occurs as a result of quickening modification. It is determined first by the social, diverse cultures and technology, and similarly by transformational move from an evidence age where the emphasis is on interrelated competencies but not lone solutions (Project Management Institute 2017).

System behavior

Projects fail when crucial communication channels and systems are not taken into consideration or when they are underestimated. For instance, the complexity of a project can be changed by the choices made by the members. During the process of conveying crucial evidence about ideas needed for major decisions, the message can be adjusted because of cultural differences between the members, staff assortment and staff interdependences. Therefore, when decision is turned from a plan into an action, it ends up being not what the manager wanted it to look like. (Davidson Frame 2014). Also the complexity of the projects influences the preceding decisions made concerning the project, the manager does not have the ability to foresee the impact of the decisions made and the outcome of the project. When changes are made to an ongoing project implementation it leads to expensive wastage of unusable unfinished products. Changes of employees within the structure of the project may cause frustration, lower morale and the manage will under expense as the employees will have to undergo retraining. Delivery of material supply made wrongly or late would lead to time wastage and the project managers should device ways to prevent future recurrence of such events (Heerkens 2015). This leads to stoppage of the project and it could in turn lead to overhead costs to the budget that were not planned for. When a team member leaves the project, a competent skill is gone, the project manager incurs another duty of finding the next competent employee to replace the one who left, this makes the project to be carry out with inadequate personnel and mistakes are bound to arise (Turner 2010). The challenge here also is to recognize the motives that have made employees choose to leave and have ready solutions for such a situation. Possible resources outages require that we calculate buffer times (Piperca and Floricel 2012). When resources deplete quickly and not within the budget scope, the manager should establish ways of finding out how the resources are finishing and ensure it doesn’t happen again. Inadequate quality checks end up rising follow-up costs, it is the duty of the managers to distinguish between errors that alter the budgetary plan and those that do not. Constraints that limit the overall implementation of the project lead to failure of the projects. Decrease of employee motivation that lowers performance leads to project failure. The problem of multi-tasking, resources are also required for additional projects and other responsibilities. All these factors affect the implementation of the complex project.

The complexity of a project is defined by the project scope, interactions and interdependence of the project system and the project context. The scope of the project greatly determines the nature of its complexity although there are small projects that are complex but most of the small projects are not complex (Brink 2017). In order to determine the projects size there are parameters that should be evaluated, like the financial budget, the project team, and the resources involved. The complexity is associated with variety. Complexity of the projects leads to interactions and interdependence within the project systems, this involves small components within the main system that rely on each other in order to implement the whole project. The last driver of the complex project is the context. The context of a project ranges from technology, economic, social to political (Cooke, Tate and Cooke 2011). The context of a project would determine its level of complexity and interaction. Efficacious projects remain founded on meeting coherent cost estimates and competence, but scope drawbacks are unavoidable with achievements that go way back a few centuries.


The implementation of the five dimension is essential in managing a complex project. It is important to note that: all project members comprehend the purpose of the project, external stakeholders realize the purpose of the dimension in relation to the project, all factors of the project management dimension should be assigned to project action plan separately, and consistent project records should be maintained to for future references (Davidson Frame 2014). The dimensions are:

The cost dimension covers the factors that affect computing the work scope in monetary terms. In order to quantify the cost dimension, the following should be done; the overall project scope should be documented, the estimated project cost and schedule should be communicated, the project team should be made aware of the potential risks and opportunities associated with the project, provide records of communication made during budget preparation, and act as maintenance during disagreement resolutions (Hossain 2009).the project manager should formulate the standard cost, scope and quantity of the resources to be used throughout the project. There should be a previous estimation of the projects that were successful to help determine the rate at which the baseline will work. The dimension should help in reviewing and validating an estimation of costs involved in a planning of a project. The aspect uncertainty is also estimated and the constraints therein.

This dimension relates to the time factor that a project would take to achieve the delivery of a complex project. Schedule enables the project team to capture the development process of a coordinated project. This dimension serves as a time management navigation tool that adds values and improves the quality of the project baseline. Complex projects need scheduling to ensure time and cost management is ultimately met in the completion of a proposed project. The schedule should accurately reflect the activities of the project to eliminate potential delays. It includes, time, prescribed milestones, scheduled risks, and availability of resources

The emphasis on the mechanical dimension spells out the aspects of technological advancement of a project (Mesa, Molenaar and Alarcón 2016). The main concerns of this aspect include the project design requirements, project range, construction values, and the arrangement of the organizational and the owner handling the project. The technical aspect similarly includes substances like language skills, structure design and new technologies implementation for operational management of the project. It includes contract, technology, construction design, internal structure, technology, and nature of limitations.

The context of a project determines its complexity. The context of a project should be handled separately so as to manage the external factors well (Ahern, Leavy and Byrne 2014). The context of a project can include; environmental concerns, local issues, stakeholders, legal and legislative factors, and project definite factors. Context dimension if not well managed can lead to the failure of the project. Local issues, environmental, stakeholders, project-specific issues

The finance dimension focuses on how the project will be funded. This is an important feature of the project since knowing the cost of a project alone does not guarantee the funding of a project. The source of finance for the project should be established and verified to prevent last minute withdrawal of the funding source (Live Vaagaasar 2011). Finance facilities the speed and accuracy in which the project will be run. Complex projects need financial arrangement that meets the design process. Finance drives the workflow of a project therefore the finance dimension should evaluate a finance capacity that can be adequately met by the project. Also additional revenues should be identified to cover for uncalled for risks and opportunities.  It exploits asset values, finance driven project delivery methods, differential inflation rates, commodity-based estimating, and financial techniques to mitigate risk.

Failures of complex projects

Improving project preparation. The project manager should do thorough research on the project that is to be conducted. Managers need to prepare the project team psychologically and physically on the importance of the project being undertaken and the impact of the project to the society Flyvbjerg 2005). Proper preparation ensures that the right team is in place at the right time and eliminate the need of some team members leaving the project halfway. Improving communication. The manager should provide clear guidelines and channels of communication to all team members. With technological advancement, there should be a variety of means of communication that the project team can use to ensure that the project details are communicated every step of the way, till the project is completed (Staadt 2012). Improving the planning of project step sequence. The project path should be outlined with every detail documented. This helps eliminate the stoppage of the project due to unclear details, or ambiguous project path. Improving the allocation of resources. Resources are the driving force of a project. The project manager should distribute the resources responsibly within the project to ensure that the allocation adequately covers the entire project at hand. Making quality controls mandatory. The controls are meant to prevent loopholes in the project process. Managers need to ensure quality controls are carried out by professionals who will ensure little or no mistakes in the project evaluation. Teamwork should encompass an obligation to long-term welfares of trust that can lead to sustainable driven through the phases of the project lifespan. With the developing complexity of the project models, involvement of decision makers is crucial in providing direction and setting innovation pace (Lau and Rowlinson 2011).

The incentives have variety from safety incentives, project cost, and schedule to the task areas like people mobility, environmental issues, and social factors Develop dispute resolution plan. In order to develop a dispute resolution, plan the manager should identify the key decision makers from the project team and stakeholders. Have each partner provide written empowerment to their project representative, this would ensure that the partners have a reference to what their projects are all about. Managers should come up with an order of the solving the disputes that arise and provide an appropriate timeframe for ensuring progress of the dispute solvency. It is also essential to come up with communication strategies that will enable constant connection between the multi-partners to provide general procedures for the dispute solvency (Walker 2009).a project leader who possesses all the qualities necessary should be identified and made responsible to handle the disputes and provide follow up resolution procedures. It is also prudent to have a third party organizers who can step up when the dispute gets uot of hand. Comprehensive risk analysis should be performed to find out the outcomes and develop mitigation plans that should help projects not fail before they are completed. Risk analysis helps in determining when to relocate a plan and the possibility of a success to prevent project delays and extended costs (Cagle 2005) the early involvement from contractor groups is essential to determine the available materials and negotiate on the costs. The expert panel should provide strategies for evaluating the probabilities of risks that lead to loss of crucuial events of the projects, using past records should help in prioritizing the most risky events. The essential permit issues involve the acceptance of a project to start running, this involves a few authority bodies that should check the project analyse the risks and benefits of the project plan. The authorities can also help in shaping the cost budgets and issue an appropriate schedule arising from the context of the project. Stakeholder availability should be looked into as they determine how the schedule will look like. The willingness of the stakeholders should be gauged to prevent financial crisis arising from stakeholders leaving the project halfway. The project managers are recommended to evaluate off-site fabrications and their applications. This is essential in determine the disruption of the quality controls and the control measures involved and the impact on the environment. The complexity of all projects is determined form the disruption’s in the public domain and within the project site, the material acquisition to ensure minimal issues in the running of the project. (Zhu and Mostafavi 2017). Utilities used in the implementation process of the project should be determined therefore, the project managers should carry out an assessment of the utilities and approaches that would be required in the accomplishment of the complex project. The work package involved in the project should be determined, a work package designed appropriately increases the chances of project success. The packages should be established with the considerations of the resources at hand, stakeholders’ capabilities to ensure that they work. Planning of the work package involves the availability of the work force, funding sources of the project, procurement planning, involvement of the local industries and uncertainty measures. The design used to come up with the budget. The phases of the project should be used to come up with viable segments that can be funded easily and budget estimations calculated easily. The phases ensure the overall goal of the project is portrayed throughout the process. The stakeholders and their level of involvement in the project should be considered too (Desmond 2017). Co-locate team. It is important to debate on the benefits and drawbacks of project team co-location, especially for the big complex projects. A strategy should be established to ensure maximum participation of all the team members from different locations. Establish flexible design criteria. A flexible design the exceptions of the project design , the reviews of the needs of the projects, the processes needed for a project to be approved, the specifics of performance, the systematic designs and the implementation should be reviewed (Evaluate flexible financing Core competencies 2001). Marginal sources of funds should not be underlined as they can be needed in case of uncertainties arising and again the financial budget would be help the manager’s plan ahead with the marginal funds at hand. Establish public involvement plan. Managers should come up with a plan that is inclusive of the public, to get their ideas and views so that the said project could be planned to accommodate them too.

After analyzing the five-dimensional structure the management is a better position of understanding the nature, project scope, and the dynamic interface of complex elements. Analysis of the exertion sources, the positions of the teams and the rates each element helps to simplify the necessary resource distribution of decisions. Intricacy mapping helps in visualizing the techniques of project scope, nature, and the flow of the complexity of the project (Frame, 2014). The planning involves the following basic plans:

This arrays the basics of making decisions through the lifespan of a project. The active contact among project management scopes and the complexity of all the factors can create intellectual surplus for project team members. It looks at legislative directives and political, leadership is paramount in project evaluation, resource accessibility, the needs of the community, and project characteristic.

The project manager should gather a team of the most competent members of the project in question. The project team can measure the inner competences and define any gaps in required and existing skills, projects needs include skills, knowledge responsibility authority. The team should come together with ideas and views on how to plan effective and efficient projects.

Procurement and contracting services are established. Analysis of the complex flow chart, map and the essential success factors, assignments, resource sharing, agreements. Project managers should make arrangements that correlate with the project in questions.

In order to understand the financial model, the manager should know where the funds come from, where costs are being utilized and the setbacks on the project design and the importance of the context flexibility that is portrayed by the funds available. The project managers should use the finance model to establish the number of donors and sponsors needed for the project (Cavaleri and Reed 2008). The financial plan helps to map the established sponsors with the various sections of the complex project, to ensure that the financial resources cover the whole plan effectively.

A project involves many people and they are all important and play a role in a complex project. Project action plan can be targeted towards specific stakeholders or can be general. They are prepared considering the constraints and risks in the complex projects Andersen et al., 2011). The project action plan should, point out the steps in which every stage of the process of the project will be introduced. The action plan gives the team members general ideas of how the whole project will run, and it also allows for corrections.

Complex projects are faced with uncertainties, to begin with the project manager has his own views and a culture that he believes in, this when combined with the ideas and cultures of all the project team members brings uncertainty on how the project will be run (Hobbs n.d.). Complex projects in a way are called so because they cannot be completely understood, this is attributed to great numbers and elements that are varied and interconnected and that are not fully quantifiable. The interactions of the many small components that make up the whole complex system also leads to uncertainty. Uncertainty propagation is hard to manage since it runs throughout the complex system, it starts from the performance of a task and it involves costs and all the deliverables used (Davidson Frame 2014). The project manager should manage the uncertainties from the root, and this would be a tedious exercise as the project is complex. A project manager should have leadership skills to enable him adapt to the uncertainties that occur in the life cycle of the project. The manager should evaluate the complex project context and reference from the records of successful completed projects so that to know the kind of uncertainties to expect and to plan well for them. The project team should be well prepared with the kind of uncertainties to expect so that they can anticipate for them .

Project managers should not focus on the reduction of the complexity of a project but rather they should properly manage the project to avoid the negative aspects of complexity. This will lead to opportunities for tackling the complex projects at much more ease Klimenko 2014). The complexity of a project risks a whole component of the project being overlooked, and this at the end leads to a failed project as that component is a crucial element of the complex project. Project manager’s risk not being to get the whole information of the running of the project as it comprises of interactions and interdependences of many systems, this makes it impossible to be able to know every information delivered at the right time (Kerzner 2017). Communication risks associated with complexity of projects can lead to mistakes within the project implementation. Complexity leads to safety risks, the project manager is not able to monitor all project members, therefore assessment of the project safety cannot be effectively carried out as the system is complex, this can lead to risks all over that can affect the proper and effective implementation of the project (Metcalfe and Sastrowardoyo 2013). The project managers should come up with a list of the possible risks associated with the complex project being planned, this helps in guiding the team in watching out for such risks and also gives them a know-how of handling such risks. Assessment of risks should be conducted within the complex project scope to eliminate possibilities of future risks. (Baguley 2008).

The project manager and the team members should understand the factors affecting complexity in order to map a project. The main purpose of mapping complex projects is to recognize, comprehend, and prioritize the essential success factors of a project. After a project has been mapped well then, the project manages allocates the administrative, financial and human resources that help the implementation of the project to ensure its success. Once the allocated resources do not successfully implement the complex project due to constriction from outside factors, the manager should develop action plan to alleviate, remove, or resolution of the constraints, to enable the smooth implementation to continue (Lau and Rowlinson 2011). The final step involves five-dimensional project management process which involves the selection of the appropriate project management tools that would ensure smooth running of the implementation process of the complex project. The project manager should identify the team members with their capabilities and skills and match them to the appropriate components of the complex project. This would help in ensuring the right team is at the right place at the right time.

An example of a complex project is a construction project development. The Australian construction industry involves an extensive range of small organizations that collectively build, alter and repair a great range of construction projects and projects that involve engineering. All of the small organizations when combined make up the complex construction industry (Mehta 2007). A construction project involves extensive planning to ensure the correct dimensions are laid down before the project commences. Factors that would generally influence the formulation of this kind of a complex project include; legal and political, cultural, institutional, sociological, technological, financial, physical infrastructure and economic factors. Some other factors that should not be overlooked include weather conditions, community issues and the government policy. (Howes 2001) To develop a great complex construction project, the project manager needs financial stability, resources, great relationship with stakeholders, standard of quality, progress of work, and communication with all the contractors and sub-contractors.  The failure of a construction project is attributed to poor budgetary estimations and time control, inadequate resources, incompetent construction designs (Pries and Quigley 2011). The project managers should set up processes to probe the environment to recognize impending problems, and to try to establish the power relationships that can help in the management of main factors of effective implementation of the projects. The construction industry of Australia should employ the five-dimension project management to help reduces financial constraints, human resources shortages, and lack of sufficient stakeholders.


Successful management of complex projects requires all project stakeholders to work together cooperatively as contributing partners the aim of implementing the project. Major changes are supposed to be made in the planning, development, design, procurement, and construction of projects. implementation of risk and opportunity should be incorporated in the complex projects by the managers to help in the adaptability of the external environment changes project managers should look into the management of risks while considering the communication, training organizational framework, commitment, measurement and review to provide concrete information to help foresee and prevent such risks from recurring (The essentials of project management 2006). Leadership and the old traditional management knowledge of planning, organizing, budgeting, staffing, mentoring, and monitoring team members should be incorporated in the modern project management process. Leadership should encompass teamwork, collaboration, sharing for the complex project to be an inclusive plan and not a one-man activity. This helps the project manager to have a team that is dedicated, multi-disciplined and highly-skilled (Tinnirello 2000). Complex project management is a specialized discipline and therefore great specialist knowledge should be considered when dealing with this sector. Complex project management operates on international methods and tools; therefore, these should be built on the observation set out in reports, and there’s a need to develop the complex project management capability standards into a set of larger international standards. Subjects addressed include; emotional intelligence, cognitive competence, and proficiency standards of traditional project management (Ponnappa 2014). Relationship models coupled with tactical skills, Leadership skills, educational and learning methods, leadership and relationship models and  frameworks, cultural behaviors, management of risky opportunities and innovation complex projects are a global concern as some are even conducted by stakeholder from different countries, the project manager should find out these opportunities that emerge from complex projects and seize them, utilize them so that they can deduct ways of avoiding negative effects of the complexity. Management of complex projects gives the managers a chance to initiate, plan, execute, monitor and control, and finally close a successful project. When this process is followed keenly and with expertise then a successful project is launched.  This success of successful implementation of projects is drawn from integration of the resources, project scope, duration of project completion, the project cost implementation, quality of the project, procurement process used, the human resources involved, the communication channels and systems used, the risk management process, and the stakeholder management to ensure that the project needs are efficiently met (Piperca and Floricel 2012). While complex projects comprise of excess of dissimilar and most linear features essential to the whole project, complexity involves interdependence of multiple components that are mutual, whereby the small parts by themselves are able to function separately, but become more complex when they are combined together to form interdependence among them for a project. Thus, changes in variables after the results of all the other variables creating new meaning to the drivers of the dynamic projects. It would be impossible for an individual member to understand a whole system of a project as it is so complex. (Walker 2012). Complex projects are not handled so well in the present times due to lack of competent managers who have the necessary and talent, there is scarce research materials to help with future plans of great projects, consumer demands keep on fluctuating, and affiliation models are so scarce and unsorted. Complex projects can be feasible so as to deliver successful results through long term reviews of the future needs and current needs of the job markets. Procurement should be considered when trying to come up complex projects that need to be viable. Communication should be assimilated in all levels of the complex system of a project to deliver better verdict of the development of the project


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