Every project manager must assess and take into account project complexity as part of the planning phase. It's important to know the magnitude of the challenge ahead and make sure that the team has what it takes to deliver.
To ensure that no resources are wasted and the project achieves success, project managers bear the important role of managing the degree of the endeavor’s complexity. This is where the 12 project management principles come into play.
Adhering to a set of defined values can help simplify things. In this article, we’ll identify and explore the common factors that contribute to project complexity and the principles you can apply to tackle each of the difficulties with success.
There is no one universally accepted definition for project complexity, but ultimately, project complexity relates to the combination of all factors that affect the level of effort in managing a project and achieving the desired project outcome.
Project complexity is marked by several elements that are distinct, yet at the same time, interrelated with each other (a more in-depth discussion in the next section). On top of the different variables operating on several interdependencies, these unseen factors add to the difficulty of a project:
A lot of ventures fail because managers underestimate project complexity. This is no surprise - without an understanding of how difficult an endeavor is, you won’t be able to prepare effectively and reduce the threats surrounding your project. The more complex a project is, the more risks it carries.
Thus, proper complexity management is an important principle of project management because it promotes efficient decision-making, taking into account all the risks that come with the difficulties in each step of the project. It’s one of the most important concepts included in the PMP® certification course and exam.
Initially applied to natural sciences, Complexity Theory has found its way into project management practice, shattering the traditional perspective that projects are linear entities that can be managed with a top-down strategy.
Since projects are nonlinear, dynamic, and actually unpredictable, managers must be able to exercise collaboration, creativity, and adaptation when tackling project complexity, instead of using a mechanical approach.
The Complexity Theory states that order can emerge from seemingly chaotic systems, such as in businesses, especially when you understand each dimension of difficulty well. Certified and experienced project manager Mohit Jain PgMP® outlines the common factors that contribute to project complexity and the ways you can address them with basic principles of project management:
A well-defined scope is what every project manager wants before starting a venture. But usually, it doesn't happen. Sometimes, the clients themselves aren’t clear about what they want. Other times, the stakeholders’ demands change over the project lifecycle, evolving from a single deliverable to 10 or more.
These uncertainties can be a roadblock to setting a proper budget and an accurate timeline, throwing off a clear plan, and making way for a more complex project. For those who are preparing for the certification test, questions relating to uncertainty are among the most common queries you’ll encounter. This PMP® practice exam should help you prepare for those types of PMP exam questions.
What principle of project management to use? When you face uncertainty about the scope of a project, embrace the principle of stakeholder engagement, communicating, and getting to know your clients. Here’s how:
To increase the efficiency of delivering projects, most project managers prefer using advanced technologies. Depending on the industry you’re in, you may go for blockchain, the internet of things, machine learning and artificial intelligence, and more. These tools, however, are expensive to buy and maintain.
On top of that, your team members would need time to be equipped with the skills necessary for using such technologies. For this reason, newer technologies, although helpful, may present another dimension of difficulty. The best PMP® practice exams often contain questions related to this kind of project complexity.
What principle of project management to use? When you face the dilemma of adopting new technologies, the best way to approach it is with the principle of stewardship, defined as the responsible planning and management of resources. Here’s how you can apply it to overcome project complexity:
The more stakeholders are involved in a project, the more complex it becomes. Take, for example, government projects, which typically require engagement with local authorities, contractors, consultants, special interest groups, and citizens, among others.
With different stakeholders having different views, it’s sometimes difficult to find consensus about the details of the project. As the project develops, there could be miscommunication, misunderstandings, and missed expectations, making a highly complex project a complicated one.
What principle of project management to use? In this scenario, excellent stakeholder engagement is likewise crucial. As mentioned earlier, talk to your audience early on and often. Get as many inputs as possible, but make sure that everything is aligned to your overall goal.
Aside from stakeholder engagement, embrace the value of tailoring. Create a unique delivery approach based on your context, specifically the large stakeholder network you’re dealing with. Here are some tailoring steps you can follow to overcome this type of project complexity:
What principle of project management to use? What you need in a complex project like this is the value of strong leadership. You must be able to plan, decide, oversee, and inspire team members effectively. These are some ways you can tackle this project complexity with the leadership principle of project management:
What principle of project management to use? To tackle this project complexity, you should adopt the principle of holistic thinking. Ask yourself always, “what’s the big picture?” Channel holistic thinking with these action steps:
What principle of project management to use? Change management is the guiding concept you must remember when taking on new territory. These are some relevant strategies for overcoming this project complexity:
From the start, project complexity is a crucial element every project manager must take into account. It will not only drive your endeavor to success, but also help you get there more efficiently even within the triple constraints of schedule, cost, and scope.
If you want to know more about project management principles, continue to visit our blog page. Feel free to use our exam simulator as you prepare for the certification test. The updated PMBOK® Guide, which contains the principles of project management, will not be included in the exam yet, but it's important to be familiar with the concepts already.
Copyright © 2008 - 2023 OSP International LLC.
The PM Exam Simulator is a mark of OSP International LLC. PMI, PMBOK, PMP, PgMP, PfMP, CAPM, PMI-SP, PMI-RMP, PMI-ACP, and PMI-PBA are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.