Leading Complex Projects – Tools & Techniques beyond PMBoK-G

Leading Complex Projects


“The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them” Albert Einstein

The Leading Complex Projects programme reveals the new level of thinking matched to the challenge of delivering projects in the 21st century. As project complexity rises so adequacy of traditional tools and techniques focussed on command and control reduces. Best practices based on Complex Adaptive Systems theory provide a rich model showing how project management is joined by Leadership of Change, Governance and Commander’s intent.

Leading Complex Projects provides a complete framework plus tools and techniques to deliver results in complex organisational environments whether projects are delivered as a service to customers or conducted in-house and whether engineering, corporate change, product development etc. In this programme you will learn how to:

  • Measure, analyse, understand, and use the factors creating complexity to solve business problems.
  • Add powerful techniques to the complex project leader’s tool-bag for determining objectives, designing solutions, triggering action, building teams.
  • Integrate your approach to leadership in a complex environment using traditional PMBoK Guide® and PRINCE2® based project management with Agile, Lean and Six Sigma.
  • Practice and participate in using the tools & techniques of leading complex projects in a safe environment before returning to the work place to use them to deliver project results.
  • Build Job-Aids and guidance tools to take back to work and ready your organisation for coping with complex adaptive leadership of complex adaptive business needs

Who Should Attend?

  • Professionals seeking to advance their careers in organisations faced with challenging pressures or desire for change.
  • Personnel tasked with delivering results in complex, even chaotic environments.
  • Project, Program and Portfolio office staff with oversight of change and Centre of Excellence staff responsible for methods, process and internal consultancy.
  • Project, Program and Portfolio board members such as sponsors seeking to understand their role in complex project success.
  • Project and Program managers, directors or leaders facing the need to extend their personal capabilities.
  • Project participants charged with delivery of projects whose complexities exceed the organisation’s ability to write exhaustive plans, both customer and supplier side.

Participants are assumed to start with a sound understanding of traditional project and line management. I.E. they will have several years experience in projects in an industry setting, for example PMP qualified or PRINCE2® practitioners of several years real use.

 Programme Objectives

The Leading Complex Projects programme equips attendees to return to work with an extended tool-kit of proven practical approaches to delivering within constraints in complex environment.

You Will Learn To

  • See beyond conventional project management approaches
  • Supplement the strengths of the PMBOK or PRINCE2® with a whole new tier of practical insights and approaches
  • Apply a ‘structured’ approach to project control based on ideas from  Complex Adaptive Systems and Nature

Course Benefits
After this course you will be able to

  • Add control to projects that are beyond your capabilities from just PMBOK and PRINCE2® guidance
  • Confidently justify removing ‘controls’ that increase costs without providing value
  • Create architectures for the governance of projects whose complexities defy centralised “plan and command” structures
  • Extend your delivery capabilities to handle more complex projects
  • Increase certainty of positive outcome to projects of current complexities
  • Integrate ‘Agile’ thinking at the programme level across complex endeavours

Training Methodology

Discussion of participant’s real-world challenges are mixed with explanation of tools and techniques, illustration of causes of problems and examples of solution through videos, exercises and lecture.

Each course segment ends with an “Call to Action” imperative. Over 36 distilled Steps, Actions, Hints & Tips that build-up to provide your future toolkit & best practice procedures.

Programme Summary

This programme provides skills that are essential to performing as an effective leader and or senior manager in complex business change. The programme begins with analysis of why traditional methods are insufficient for all challenges. It then moves on to provide a full tool-set for delivering project based benefits in complex situations.


Standard Full Course – 3 Days
0900 to 1630 formal class hours (1630 onward informal/ optional time for discussion of “topics raised on the day” and demonstration of relevant software tools if wanted), 1530 finish on last day.

Programme Content

Module 1: Understanding Context & Concepts “What is Complexity?” and Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS)

  • Extending (not replacing) the toolkits; beyond PMBOK-Guide & PRINCE2 with best practices for complex projects
  • Define what does complexity mean? Wicked problems and how we search for simplicity
  • Explore the qualities and duties of the leader and Complex Adaptive Leadership team
  • Understand system thinking as basis for advanced adaptive and reactive control
  • Change requires moving from equilibrium to equilibrium to deliver a future state of operations
  • Components & characteristics of adaptive systems; Boundaries, Feedback, Agent behaviour: the Waggle dance & business systems
  • People, Emotions and Behaviours, WIIFM, Emergence and new controls; Human interactions and how Attractors shape action, Motivation & Emergence from Self-organisation
  • Attractor plus Context = Behaviour
  • Expectation of local control and external control
  • Note each day’s segments includes frequent discussions plus a variety of exercises, case-study and other types of learning segment

Module 2: Using Complex Adaptive Leadership to Drive Business Direction Setting

  • Reflect & build an action plan from yesterday’s learning
  • Triggering change and people’s reactions: Using visceral views of success.
  • Leadership plus Management for best results: What is leadership? What is management?
  • Mission & Values plus Context & Capability = Vision.
  • Stepping into the future: Tools & techniques for defining then cascading vision, starting with compelling goal statements and binary Recognition Events® (job-aid). Approaches to use with goal seekers and those with a “Can’t because…” negative outlook

Module 3: Communications in the Complex Environment

  • Socialising and preparing those affected for change’s arrival, The journey of an idea through SARAH
  • Creating a culture of debate to search for solution & build buy-in, The value of tools and techniques such as IBIS and Dialogue Mapping
  • Triggering change using irresistible (or gentler) triggers
  • Creation & discharge of duties of accountability in delegation
  • Buy-in & motivation. Establishing practical, sustainable rewards (attractors)
  • Backcasting the business’ route map from binary behaviour tests through tipping points to milestones
  • Building the right communication capability. The two key principles for quality & communications.
  • Complex project leader’s duties in communications (stay out of at least half of it!). Building the complex project’s communication flows
  • Golden rule of interfaces to contain or encourage emergence. Complex project’s communications job aid

Module 4: Leading Complexity in Solution Selection & Managing Implementation

  • Using Deep Time, Understand the characteristics of teams & aid team dynamics. 10 simple steps for a effective feedback processes (job aid)
  • The 4 Steps of the Learning From Experience cycle and how to embed them into your projects
  • Handling complexity arising from resource contention using portfolio analysis and Critical Chain
  • Separating the choice of solution development life cycles and project governance regime then selecting the right options for each work-stream’s needs
  • Cherry-picking and integrating the best frameworks and tool-kits from PMBoK-Guide®, PRINCE2®, Agile, Lean and Six Sigma
  • Reviews, Gates and Governance; linking complex project’s day to day conduct to the executive’s need for transparency of status over investments.
  • Creating & evaluating the Decision Support Package (DSP) through-out the whole of project. The purpose of Stages & Phases. The Gate reviews required for coordination across the portfolio.
  • Basing the DSP’s content & Decision Making on sound status assessment to avoid Scope Creep and Hope Creep. Integration of basic Quality Planning & Control to Complex projects

Module 5: Supporting, Reporting and Re-Routing to Successful Delivery

  • Forecasting from reporting and Refining estimates for use in the Decision Making Architecture’s consideration of “What next…”
  • Managing Complexity Up as well as down; when the ‘solution’ does not deliver then re-introducing creativity for problem solving
  • Replace the plan! Use project GPS to deliver the result not the process;
  • Implementation and stabilisation of benefits, implementation maturity signs and JHWDBAH
  • Project Support Offices & Centres of Excellence
  • Measuring Complexity: Create a Take-Away Assessment Tool (Job Aid) to measure complexity and guide mixing Leadership and management in your organisation
  • Wrap-up “What did we hear, What will we take away, How will we use it?”
  • Summarising the Recipe for Complex Project Delivery
  • Final Thoughts: Be Lucky (Luck isn’t random but it is often unscheduled)

END Beginning: Old beliefs do not lead to new behaviours

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