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Complex Project Management


Discussion 1: In chapter 1 of Terry Cooke-Davies' book Aspects of Complexity he breaks down several factors for the causes of complexity: 

1. Unhelpful Behavior (Cooke-Davies 2011, p.4);

2. Failure to Appreciate Systemicity (Cooke-Davies 2011, p.5);

3. Models (Cooke-Davies 2011, p.5);

4. Simplistic Project Management (Cooke-Davies 2011, p.5);

5. Over-Ambitious Strategic Management (Cooke-Davies 2011, p.6) and other factors

Answer: The largest marine oil spill incident in America is Deepwater Horizon. after the explosion, the oil continued to flow out from well for almost 87 days after which the well was capped. in total, 134 million gallons of oil spewed out which caused nearly $17.2 billion worth damage to the natural resources of the Gulf. moreover, 11 people died in the whole incident. the disaster was so large that it affected from fisherman to the people who are working in the tourism industry. BP company owned the Deepwater Horizon and till now it is paying the compensation amount which is worth $65 billion and it has caused a serious dent in the financials of the company(Vaughan, 2018).

Deepwater Horizon disaster is also famous with the name BP Oil Spill. the company was an exploring project which turned into disaster in which company was stopping leak oil, cleaning the environment, saving as well as cleaning wildlife, dealing with public such as PR campaigns, handling employees and shareholders, answering to government and managing the negative publicity which the whole project brought for the company(Elizabeth, et al., 2011). there are following some of the key events which can be considered as the central reason for the disaster,

1. Unhelpful Behavior (Cooke-Davies 2011, p.4);

Unhelpful Behaviors: It has been highlighted in the book that one of the major factors which make the project complex is the interaction of human beings who are required to make complex decisions. complexity enhance when the people from different backgrounds cultures, loyalties, education and interests are put together for making an effective decision for the project. a large number of factors can be evaluated in Deepwater Horizon disasters which indicate the bad decision-making from the leader's side. for instance, management was aware of the fact that deep-water drilling in Gulf region was highest risk-taking activity still management was supporting the company in its plant to save time and money(Marcia, et al., 2012).

During that time cost, cutting was the major goal of the company due to which it was avoiding any risk assessments and safety implementation. for instance, the IT system of the company was not also working properly which had the potential to stop the damage on time. for instance, the emergency disconnect system was not working. if that system was effective it would have stopped the oil flow but due to technical fault signals did not reach properly to the system(Jacqueline, et al., 2013).

Researchers have evaluated that Tony Hayward who was CEO of the company at that time was managing a team which was highly risk-taking, overlooked warnings regarding safety issues, hid the fact and completely ignore the expert advice. it also highlights that there were poor supervisions and training of the employees. even after the incident instead of taking the responsibility he tried to spin the situation. moreover, Hayward admitted in a court hearing that he was aware of the fact that operational management safety system had not implemented on Deepwater Horizon ring(Blackden, 2013).

Even after the disaster the leadership was not playing an effective role, they only made the situation worse for company,for instance, the spokesperson of company lied about the size of spill as well as misguide the public about underwater plumes and the media persons were not allowed at the cleaning sites. moreover, the CEO of the company said many hurting and hateful words during his media speech such as he called Gulf people small which angered the public and increased problems for the company.

5. Over-Ambitious Strategic Management (Cooke-Davies 2011, p.6) and other factors

Over-Ambitious Strategic Management: BP was too much sure about its operation that it did not consider to make an effective risk management plan. the disaster happened due to a series of wrong decisions which increased risk and also a large number of actions which were insufficient to control and mitigate the risk. investigation panel of the incident did not find any evidence by which it could be proved that BP performed a formal risk assessment regarding critical operational decisions. moreover, it had been evaluated in the investigation that most of the decisions were made by the company in the context of cost and time-saving without considering the risk of decisions(Rob, et al., 2011). Jim Guild who is the senior vp-global property revealed that risk management of the company was of very basic level as it was only focused on the safety of procedures which are performed in such drilling ventures. 

Simplistic Project Management: The factor of simplistic project management can also be seen in the Deepwater Horizon project. for instance, a pressure test was carried out by the employees of the companyseveral time on the well for only evaluating that either it is sealed or not. the employees were not skilled and experienced enough due to which they misinterpreted the results every time they thought that the well was under their control although the reality was something else(John, 2011). 

One more major point is although the team was not capable enough to detect that whether the well was under their control or not but it also failed to detect the leakage of oil and gas towards the surface. due to leakage of gas and oil, the pressure on the well was increasing. moreover, the project managers lacked the complete authority which was necessary for the complete management. for instance, risk assessment associate of company warned several times to the top management team that safety measures at the Deepwater Horizon not significant. however, the team was only committed to cut the cost for the company and increase its revenues due to which they did not pay attention to this project because risk assessment and necessary steps for its implementation were costly.

Models: People interact with each other handle work according to their mental models. majorly it is considered that these models are implicit rather than explicit because they differ greatly from the mental models of other people. for instance, when mud and gas entered the rig the employees had the option to divert the flow of gas and mud away from the rig by venting it safely via pipes,however, employees decided to divert the flow to a device on the board the rig. this device had the ability to separate gas and mud,however, it could only deal with small amount yet the large flow overwhelmed it and ultimately flammable gas started engulfing the rig.


Discussion 2: Deep Horizon Accident

• Form a matrix to assess the level of complexity of the Deep-Horizon using one or more of the tools. Present your assessment in details using relevant Tables and supplementary materials, references.

• Explain the constraints/limitations related to the Deep-Horizon case and specify the type of complexity (structure, technical..) in details.

• Write detailed explanation on why do you think so and provide supportive examples from the case.

• Based on your understanding to the case, explain what type of varieties lead to this scenario, What else could be done to absorb these varieties.

Draw a graph showing the external varieties affected the project (based on your understanding) and what actions should have been taken (Use the Ashby law concept)

Answer: Deepwater Horizon

Complexities and risk assessment

Risk or complexity of any project can be measured by applying relative risk application that will help to define the risk matrix or its likelihood. The formula for relative risk can be applied to understand the risk likelihood and the level of severity linked with this. The formulafor calculating the relative risk is following

Likelihood * Severity =Risk

To measure the complexity and risk level associated with the Deep Horizon Accident can be explained through the following table

Severity of risk





































On the basis of the above table and risk calculation, the severity of the risk can be measured. Red coloured area is showing high-risk level, the yellow highlighted area is showing medium risk level while the green highlighted is showing a low level of risk(Hu, et al., 2017). To better define the complexity or risk level associated with each region, the following evaluation table can be used,

Likelihood (L)




Highly likely






Remote possibility

This risk assessment guideline can be used as risk evaluation matrix to check compatibility or level of risk associated with the different event. Moreover, the severity level defines more about the safety, health or environmental risks associated with the accident. At each level of relative risk different type of severity relates, for example, the trend or event of very high or multiple deaths during an accident can be measured at 5. The scenario of serious injury and permanent disability can be scaled at 4, RIDDOR over 3 days can be scaled under moderate 3 while the scenario for first aid treatment can be scaled as slight (2) and 1 scenario of very minor or nil injury has scaled at 1. In the case of deep horizon oil, the risk level can be ranked at 5 by considering their likelihood and severity level (Cade, 2013).

To more effectively understand the risk and complexity associated with deepwater horizon oil case, the likelihood and severity of risk can be measured at level 5, 4 and 3. By applying the formula of relative risks, it has measured as 16 (high), 25 (high) and 9 (medium). To control these risk and complexity for deep horizon oil should include these factors, first of all, schedule or plan can be designed to increase work efficiency of the pipelines and other oil containers. The company could make more investment in training the person in charge or responsible for the working of pipeline and containers. To control or mitigate high-risk workplace, more awareness and knowledge can be created among people to control fire or explosion. Providing frequent emergency response is more important in response to managing complexities and challenges raised during an emergency situation.

There were many technical and other complexities involved which ultimately lead to the Deepwater Horizon incident. for instance, during the early days of drilling the employees faced various good problems, lost circulation zones and gas kicks. some of the time these faults occurred simultaneously or one by one. for instance, there were four different occasions at which the crew experienced the well-control problem. during one of the well-control problems, the drill pipe became stuck due to which it was not possible to move the pipe in or out of the hole. a stuck pipe is very dangerous and it also pointed out that well hole condition was not good(Jon & Vinnem, 2012). it took a whole week to deal with the stuck pipe still they were not able to get it out of the hole and they decided to separate it from the assembly and placed a cement cap at its place and continued to drill a sidetrack.

The poor decision-making of the engineers also contributed in the disaster,for example, BP engineers permitted to construct a run one long string of casing from the wellhead to the bottom. this string only provided protection for oil and gas flow into the wellbore. however, if the cement failed to hold the pressure the oil and gas could have travel up and escape easily from the wellhead. moreover, the cement was of a very low quality which failed to provide the needed protection. during the investigation, it was evaluated that the plan for the well was changed several times only to cut the cost. majorly management influenced the decisions. there was a lack of proper risk assessment due to which company was not preparing for an uncertain situation.the continuous change in the decisions also indicates that there was no proper plan for such a big project. moreover, the organizational structure was poor such as at multiple occasions the crew was uncertain who is reallyincharge of the project because Haliburton, BP and Transocean were managing the project simultaneously without proper collaboration.There was no culture of accountability for the multiple subcontractors who were involved in the project.

External factors

Ashby's Concept of Law

It has been known as the first law that has been presented in cybernetics and help to apply the degree of control in any system and to control the risk associated with any system. This concept of law can be applied to evaluate performance or complexities associated with deep horizon oil spill case. Following diagram explains the variety of measurement or steps taken in case of emergency,

Complex Project Management.jpg

(Albery, Borys, & Tepe, 2016)

Effective collaboration of environmental objectives and organizational resources can be helpful to increase the efficiency of risk assessment and management. Risk management strategies can fall at any point of the straight line that shows the level of varieties at an increasing level of complexities.

All in all, it could be said that there were multiple factors which contributed to the failure of such a big project. the complexities in big projects make their management difficult. Deepwater Horizon is a disaster in which management, technical and structural complexities were involved. with effective plan, skilled crew, proper risk management plan and high-quality raw material the disaster could be prevented.


Discussion 3: In Ch.5 we presented the concept of Structural and Dynamic Complexity. However, on page 61 of Terry Cooke-Davies book Carver and Maylor state that "The most common high-level categorizations of complexity were identified as:"

- Scale;

- Uncertainty;

- Pace;

- and Socio-political.

• Is there a relationship between each of these and "The four categories or dimensions, which are based on the source of complexity namely: Structural complexity; Technical complexity; Directional complexity; and Temporal complexity.

Answer: Craver and Maylor have discussed various levels of portfolio, project as well as program management (PPPM). many reasons were discussed about the project failure however, poor program management has been evaluated as the most influential cause. Moreover, it has been evaluated that for accomplishing success in any project it is necessary for the organizations as well as individuals to properly respond to the challenges which are occurring in each situation. additionally, authors have claimed that managerial complexity most of the time making the whole project quite complex and difficult to manage. managerial complexity includes both elements such as structural and dynamic complexities(Andrew, 2014). Craver and Maylor have introduced rethinking project management method for preparing the managers to handle the complex projects. structural and dynamic complexities both impact on the project and decision-making of managers in one or other way. they make it difficult for the managers to handle the work. moreover, they are interlinked while the degree of their relation falls under different categories. 

Parametric estimation and wick problems are analogous to each other. this is mainly because in parametric estimation technique is used for evaluating the cost as well as duration. the relationship between the variables is used for analyzing the exact cost or time period which is required for the completion of a project. however, wicked problems can cause a problem in the project and the estimated time or cost can be increased effectively(George & Marcellino, 2009). this is mainly because there are certain characteristics of the wicked problem which make its resolution hard,for instance, wicked problems are unstable because various legislations, political alliances, scientific evidence and resources are involved in it which make it hard to understand the problem. secondly, there is no clear and definite solution to the wicked problem. the problem-solving decisions are either make the situation smooth or lead it to complete disaster. moreover, there is no specific time period in which one can anticipate that the problem will be solved(, 2013). moreover, it could be said that wicked problems are socially complex because various organizations, individuals, non-profit and private businesses and organizations are involved in it. moreover, the wicked problems are not the responsibility of a specific person.

For instance, climate change is a wicked problem. There are various factors which have been suggested as the major cause of this problem such as structural inequalities especially among the countries have resultant in unsustainable patterns of production as well as consumption.moreover, there is no significant global planning regarding which countries and markets could be managed. Different solutions have been purposed to resolve the issues yet it cannot be estimated that how much time this complex problem will take to resolve. this is mainly because all the governments and parliament have to formally agree for cutting the future carbon emission and protect the environment. moreover, the citizens have to simplify their lifestyle for conserving the resources for future generations. however, it is not an easier task because agreeing all the governments is a difficult task even after agreeing on them it will take a lot of time to the people to change their lifestyle and adopt the sustainable approach. Parametric estimation cannot be applied to wicked problem effectively because it cannot identify the specific time period in which the climate issue will be resolved.

MrShermon and parametric estimation concepts can use in collaboration for the solution of wicked problems. this is mainly because the concept of Shermonencourages practitioners to estimate time and cost which is politically acceptable instead of estimating at an appropriate level. this thing gives the margin to deal with the financial problems which can emerge later in the process cycle. additionally, size, complexity and productivity are taken as the independent variables while cost is taken as the dependent variable. both these concepts in combination can be used to solve the wicked problems which have been described by Ms Briggs. for instance, both these concepts can help the government in estimating the cost and time period for the achievement of small milestones while later in the further financial aid can be obtained from government according to demand of the situation.

It could be an effective example of big data because climate change is not occurring due to the activities of a single country or a person. it is majorly combined activity of various developed and underdeveloped nations. In parametric estimation the very first step is data collection, normalization the cost estimating relationships are evaluated by the help of statistical analysis and then finally model is applied. the cost estimation and nature of collected data is different according to the project and demand of the situation. for instance, in the climate change, wicked problem first analysis will be about key major and minor factors which are contributing in the climate change. once the data is collected then it will be evaluated which of the countries are involved actively in these activities and how they can be agreed on decreasing the activities or changing the procedures. all this required a largeamount of data at an international level due to which it could be said that it is a key example of big data use at a larger level.

Project management in an effective manner is necessary for the success of any project without proper planning the project will be a disaster. the managerial decision can make a project complex. both dynamic and structural factors are involved in the managerial complexities. estimating the cost of a project is easy with the help of parametric estimation. however, estimation of time, as well as the cost of complex project which involve wicked problems, is not possible because the exact time or cost cannot be measured as various unstable factors are involved. however, Shermon and parametric estimation are used in combination then the target is achievable because in this combination the cost and time are estimated which is politically acceptable not appropriate.


Discussion 4: The current Discussion intends to highlight the aspects of complexity in the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) based on what has been discussed earlier.

- The characteristics of complex projects explained in Week 5 (Refer to the slides in Lecture 5).

- The four main complexity input including Structural, Technical, Temporal and Directional Complexity

Answer: Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD)

There are many projects under process in the world but not every project is the same, some are easy and some are very complex. There are many aspects which are analyzed to fix the complicity level of any project. Different aspects for identifying the project complexity include temporal, technical, Directional and Structural factors. Complexity factor of any project is very helpful in managing the project by taking early precautions of possible hazards, estimating the time duration and allocating the cost and arraigning finance for the projects. In the article different complexity factors and their level of complexity is evaluated. Complexity indicators are evaluated through a field survey of the project site and scale of complexity is set through the study of past papers(Bac, Kermanshachi, Shane, & Anderson, 2016).

For the weighting of indicating factors, a panel of experienced persons arranged workshops with the mission to make the weighting factor for the indicators of complexity. Fifteen complexity indicator were then evaluated and then ranked from 1 to 15 on the basis of their importance. These indicators were then used to give more emphases on the important and strong indicators. There is 37 complexity indicator that was identified during the field survey and then different number of scales were given on the basis of low, medium and high where 1 being the lowest and 9 being the highest score. Moving from 1 to 9 shows an increase in the importance of the complexity indicator(Douglas, Shane, Strong, & Puerto, 2012).

Complexity indicates the increase in the number of uncertainties as the project keeps on increasing in the area. If the complexity of any project is high then the project managers will face more challenges in resolving the chaos of the projects. Construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam includes many complex factors which are shown in the complexity radar diagram below:

Complex Project Management 1.jpg

Number of required permits: There are many permits that are needed for the operation of many large projects and serious/risk involving works. Construction of the dam is a complex project which required many permits. To get the permit there are many procedures and things that need to be followed before getting the permit. So, a large number of permits can create complexity in the management process.

The difficulty of obtaining permits: Permits are the permissions for the workers to perform the work activities in the workplace. To get the permit the managerhas to make sure that the workplace is safe for working and worker don't have any kind of risk. It may be sometimes very difficult to get the permit because of the seriousness of the work and conditions of the work area(Asegdew & Moges, 2014). Sothe project's managers can find trouble in getting the permit which can cause a delay in the completion of the project, so this is serious complexity issue need to be addressed by the project managers. 

The difficulty of design approval: Approval of the design is very important to start the project. The design should be free from flaws in order to start the project, in case of any flaw in the project the project can be stopped even in the working phase. This was the major complexity issue of the project because getting clearance of the design to involve verification form many departments also the design must be able to stand with the conditions of the area. To get the approval the design must withstand the conditions of the area like landslides. So, this is a serious complexity indicator that shows the complexity level of the project(Goitom, 2014).

Impact of external agencies on PEF: Involvement of external agencies of the project execution plan is a major complexity issue for the project. For proper working of the project, it is important that the project moves in a design a scheduled way. Involvement of external agencies in the project is a critical issue that affected the project schedule and process creating complexity for the PM's to manage the construction of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. 

Peak number of FTE- Procurement: This complexity factor is associated with the peak number of participants (Full-time Equivalents) assessment at the time of procurement. It is important that the project managers must assess the number of participants which is very important for the project to allocate the funding and resources for the project and also important for the cost estimation of the project. 

Peak number of FTE- Constructions: Assessing the peak number of participants is also very important at the time of construction. This complexity issue is also very important to address by the project managers and to apply the management practices to avoid any type of problem in the working process. 

Target funding: Raising funds for the project is a serious task and the whole project depends upon the funding. To raise the fund it is important to make the under realize the importance of the project and to show the benefits that can be brought by the project and to indicate the need of the projects. Without making these factors clear raising fund is a serious complexity issue. So the management who is responsible for collecting funds must clearly explain the significance of the project to motivate the funders. Without proper funding, the project can proceed and if funding is not sufficient then it can also cause hurdles in the flow of the work any stage of the project(, 2012).

Target schedule: There can be many event and uncertainties that can affect the schedule of the projects. This can be some kind of fault on the process, any legal or social factor related to the project or any kind of incident and accident. This was the complexity issue for the project which required management practices to meet the target schedule for the project. Delay in the project requires more time to complete the project which demands more funding and increase the cost of the project, so this is a significant indicator of complexity for the project.

Discussion 5: In Ch.2, we presented Managing Projects with High Complexity by Stephen Hayes and Daniel Bennett and the issues highlighted by ICCPM Roundtables. We also presented few parameters that contribute to project complexity (some are listed below). 

The current forum intends to tackle the complexity issues of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in more details.

Answer: Discussion 5

There are many different parameters that can contributor to the complexity of the project and such projects must be addressed by the project's managers.

Number of project variables: The complexity of the project is very much depended on the variables that are present in the project. Smaller the variable less will the complexity of the project. It also refers to the size of the project, normally large size projects are more complex because they involve more variables. With a large number of factorinvolved in any project, more management strategies are required to complete the project. Different variables involved in this project that creates complexity involves the physical size of the project, a large number of technology installation including electrical and mechanical, number of the physical and technical complex role and also the difficulty of the building process which is inherited. The size of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) indicate the complexity of the project, this involves many variable and process which are needed to be managed with care and professional skills otherwise this complex of the projected will be increased(Ying, Block, Hammond, & King, 2015). 

Social structure: This refers to the interaction of society with the project and social perspective of the project. In the development of any project, this project is also an important factor. What the society think about a particular project affect the project, if the society has a positive aspect about the project then the development of the project will be easy and if the social image of the project is not good then the project will face many serious complexities. This complexity can be solved by providing the importance of the project to the society so they can better understand the need of the project.

Uncertainty: It is a serious complexity factor that can affect the working of the project. Every project starts with proper planning but there can be some uncertain and unplanned activities that can affect the working of the project(Michael, Loch, & Meyer, 2002). Team managers take great care about all the possible events that can occur in the course of work and plain management strategies for every event, but still, in the workplace and process, any uncertainty can happen. This is mostly due to the not complying with the working procedures or due to failure in identifying the factor. For example, if the health and safety are non-professional and misses the hazardous substance on the workplace then there will be a high risk of the hazardous event inthe workplace. This complex issue can be resolved by making a management plan and identify all the possible work activity hazard that can occur and must take consult with the professionals before starting the project and also in the working stages of the project, which can decrease the complexity of uncertainty. 

Ambiguity: The most common complexity indicator is the lack of awareness about the various aspects of the project. If the information and awareness are missing among the people and the project managers than the project can't proceed in a smooth manner. This also causes poor connection and collaboration among the parties and affect the roles of the project. Lack of awareness also cause problem in raising the funds for the project because if the funder doesn't have the understanding about the project and its importance then it will create complexity in collecting the funds for the project and in case of fund shortage the project cannot be completed or even it can also make difficult to start the project.

Dynamics: This complexity factor is related to the fast and rapid change in the project. This change can be at any part of the project and can occur at any stage of the project. Sometimes the changesneed to be made which can be different from the pre-planned process of the project and thus can create complexity in the working of the project. Such conditions can also affect the schedule of the project and can cause an increase in the time duration of the project which also leads to the financial complexity of the project. 

Interdependence of the project system: The project is more complex when there is interdependence in different parts of the works process. This is due to the fact that in case of error or fault in one process can cause fault or error in the other processes. So in this complex situation, more care is required by the project managers in order to avoid the problem in any process because it will affect another process of the work. The complexity of interdependency of the project is complex enough that it cannot be managed by the traditional tools of project management(Ludovic-Alexandre & Marle, 2008). This complexity becomes more severe with the increase in the size of the project as a more and mere variable is added when the size of the projected increase so the interdependence of the factor also increases causing an increase in the complexity of the project. 

Unpredictability: This complicated factor involves the lack of knowledge about the project that what can happen during the project. This causes serious complexity in the project because if the managers are not able to predict all the possible situations and conditions than management practices and plan cannot be prepared to handle the situations. To tackle such situation study to various projects of a similar nature can be helpful in predicting the possible happenings of the project. Also, consultancy from the experts in the field and training of the project managers can be very helpful in making the staff able to predict about all the possible aspects of the project, to make an effective management plan for such situations and conditions.


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