From Complexity to Ingenuity

I have learned from the project management course that risk management is the essence of project management, by understanding, analyzing, mitigating, and monitoring project risk the company would reduce the number of surprises and that will leads to project success and increase stakeholder satisfaction. According to PMI’s report Pulse of the Profession in 2013 “Every $1 billion spent on a project, will have $135 million at risk, the trend becomes more troubling for projects with added complexity, which, on average, have budgets nearly twice as large.”

Project manager must identify complexity in a project from the beginning to help control the risk through the life of the project, to make sure his or her team is focused and the project is better governed and managed. Also, he or she would decide if the project is worth the risk and what should be done to manage the risk through the life of the project. According to PMI’s report in February 2014 “From Complexity to Dexterity” the report added seven tips to taming complexity in a project as follows;risk_measurement_400_clr_5483

1. Project and program management culture comes from above.
Having engaged project sponsors is one of the main drivers for project success.

2. Set a clear vision for project outcomes.
Setting specific goals for what the project needs to define how decisions are made, and prevent scope creep from pulling the project of track.

3. Break highly complex projects into manageable pieces.
Determining the elements of complexity early when problems are cheaper to solve.

4. Establish centralized functions for oversight.
Setting guidelines and providing tools between project teams and leadership to ensure they remain aligned.

5. Create a formal governance process and follow it.
Diligently oversight projects by people empowered to make decisions to mitigate issues before they become a major problem.

6. Invest in people.
Developing the expertise of project leaders ensures the organization has a broad pool of leaders ready to manage highly complex projects.

7. Communicate effectively with all stakeholders.
Seeking out different perspectives and ensuring project objectives are widely understood.

The report indicated that the pharmaceutical business is a prime example for complexity when dealing with uncertainty about the future of creating new drug to market. “We are trying to predict what’s going to happen 10 years from now with respect to multi million euro rug development projects.Research wants to develop a new drug, commercial wants something to sell, and customers and stakeholders want a product proven safe and effective.” says Ken Jones, President and CEO of Astellas Pharma Europe Ltd. As organizations have little choice to deal with indexcomplexity, but such project management strictness helps Mr. Jones’ team better control the risks and determine which projects should be fast-tracked, slowed down or killed.

Which one of the tips do you find most important to taming complexity in a project and can you think of any additional tips to add to this list?



4 thoughts on “From Complexity to Ingenuity

  1. Will, thank you for sharing the article and your thoughts. These are great tips, but the one I believe is amongst the most important ones is to break highly complex projects into manageable pieces. Doing so will allow team members to accomplish objectives and tackle large multi-step projects effectively and efficiently while ensuring quality by breaking down the major milestones. When I’m faced with a bear of a task at hand I try to break out certain parts, focus on each one at a time in a manageable manner rather than being overwhelmed with the whole project.

    1. Thanks Vel for sharing this great technique to tackle complex projects. It is like working on the project one phase at a time until finalizing the whole project within the time limit.

  2. Hi Will,

    Thank you for posting this thought provoking article! I believe the most critical portion tied to this topic is the initial assessment of scale and complexity for any project. For some of my companies’ engagements, we’ve actually managed to break clients complex initiatives in several projects, and provide a program-level or even portfolio level approach. The key element is being able to successful identify that high degree of complexity up-front, as any miss in the initial understanding of complexity can severely derail all the downstream planning components — schedule, budget, quality, scope management, etc.

    1. Thanks Al, for your thoughts. As fixing and understanding the project complexity from the beginning of the project is cheaper to solve than waiting and assuming that everything is under control.

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