These are the 5 Skills You Need to Manage Complex Projects

Sometimes projects can seem overwhelming. I’m sure you’ve felt frustrated after a meeting in which the wrong people created an impossible plan.
Complexity can make it more overwhelming. You feel like you are trapped with your cat in a carry case, and there are many other factors that can complicate matters.

Complex Projects and Difficult Projects are not the same thing. Participation of many teams and stakeholders
2. Many moving parts
3. The project timeline
4. Budget and other constraints

Complexity Coping Skill #1 – Adaptability
Complexity Coping Skill #2 – Collaboration
Complexity Coping Skill #3 Communication
Complexity Coping Skill 4: Expertise
Complexity Coping Skill #5 Leadership
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Tera Simon spoke on this topic at the Digital Project Management Summit in 2011. She shared her experiences with complex projects and offered tips for managing the work when it seems overwhelming.
Before I get into it, let’s clarify what we are talking about. What makes a project complicated?
Complex Projects and Difficult Projects are not the same thing
Tera spoke about the things that make projects complex. It doesn’t have to do with how difficult they are. These are the four things that make projects complicated:
1. Participation of many teams and stakeholders
Complexity is caused by many people involved in a project. This could be the case on the customer’s side, where there are many stakeholders. Or because of a mix suppliers. Or because the project touches many different departments within the business. All of them need to be kept informed.
Multi-project management can lead to overlaps between stakeholder groups, which can make managing your projects more challenging.
The general rule is that the more people involved, the more difficult it will be to manage office politics and agendas.
2. Many moving parts
She shared the story of how her company had 12 different government websites that it had to standardize and bring together. Multi-stranded projects or workstreams can be more complicated than projects with just one task. There are more things to do and more plates to spin.
This is probably something you already know from personal experience: The more people involved, and the more goals, targets, and deliverables, it is, the more difficult it will be.
I believe that the more stakeholders involved in a project, the more complicated it is. This applies to both internal teams and customers and suppliers. It makes things even more difficult when you add sub-contractors to the mix. There are more communication channels and there is a higher chance that something will be lost. Project risks increase.
3. The project timeline
A project can be complicated if it has a short timeline or is not possible to meet certain dates. This is in addition to other factors. Tera’s website project was not completed by her design agency. However, another vendor (procured directly by the client and not a subcontractor) was behind schedule.
Tera’s team had no idea what the final site branding would look like before they started working on the website project. The approved brand was finally established 4-5 months after the project began.
They discovered that the brand files weren’t web-compliant when they looked at them. The website project team was also challenged by the fact that the font and colors were not optimized for web.
4. Budget and other constraints
There might also be other constraints, such as the budget, that can increase complexity.
This is not the way I would define complexity in projects. Tera implied, but didn’t explicitly mention, that complexity often occurs as a result a degree uncertainty, unknowns, and interdependencies.
Read Next: Complexity of Mega IT Projects (which focuses on building a 7-star hostel).