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Managing Complex Project


Introduction: A project is fundamentally a unique and temporary endeavour which is undertaken for delivering a particular result. The result may vary as per the process or performance and is based on the end product or service. Resources and time are consumed for producing the results and the same may include deliverables, resource or performance improvement. Every project is unique as at least one of the parameters of the project changes. The different parameters of any project include environment, targets and resources. For effective management of the project, the process of project management emerged and the same has developed to incorporate sets of theories, methodologies, practices and principles. The traditional project management requires creation of work breakdown structures that would assemble a plan as well as rigorously guard against the changes that may be encountered while progressing towards the goals. The techniques that are used for project management are executed in a rigid, top down hierarchical structure. The traditional project management practices emphasize on the conformity, adherence and compliance.

Task: Your task is to consider:

• the causes, environments, and properties of complex projects;

Answer: With the further development of the process of project management and the application of the process in various projects eventually led to the emergence of various complexities associated with projects. There are several factors that results in project complexity and there exists a project complexity framework which is used reference for managing complex projects. There are different types of complex projects, and the major kinds include structural complexity, directional complexity, technical complexity, and temporal complexity (Antoniadis, Edum-Fotwe, and Thorpe, 2011). The source of project complexity has the ability of influencing the project life cycle, selection of the key project resources, ways of identification as well as management of risks, critical review points, governance structure for the project, budgetary and scheduling methods, lengths of the project phases that exists within the lifecycle and influences the choice of procurement methods as well as approaches of contract management (Gul, and Khan, 2011). The fundamental challenges that are associated with complex projects include role definition and maintaining focus, management of risks, issues with project methodologies, issues associated with interface management, influences associated with politics and culture, management of resources, and people issues. However, there also exits certain opportunities that are associated with complex project management and these include introduction of change, value creation, economic, social and environmental sustainability, and innovation (Peng, Heim, and Mallick, 2014). In the following discussions, the various aspects of complex projects have been explored. Furthermore, the complexities associated with the case of the project of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam have been taken under consideration and elucidated in the following discussions.

Complex Project Management: The Case of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

Complex projects are characterised by non-linearity, being recursive and uncertainties that are best viewed as evolving and dynamic systems. The traditional project management practices are fundamentally based on two theories, namely, control theory and reductionism (Gransberg, et al., 2012). Control theory mentions that the achievement of the optimal outcomes is dependent on the manipulation of the constituent parameters of a complex system. As opposed to this, the reductionism theory mentions that complex entities that are associated within projects are better understood if they are reduced to their simpler constituents, which can be achieved through project work breakdown structures (Lu, et al., 2015). The complexity theory that is associated with complex projects acknowledges that the constant change that are associated with the project, characterises the business environment. As per Maylor, and Turner, (2017) the complex theory of project management aids to recognise the independencies which are often invisible or may be difficult for understanding, managing and planning. The practice of management of complex projects encompass practices that are decentralised or collaborated control, open or flexible boundaries, being circular and serial, inclusive view, supportive leadership style, guided by principles, deemphasized barriers, and the parts that work in sharing and collaboration (Maylor, and Turner, 2017).

Complexity exists in almost every aspect and the same is continuously developing at an increasing pace. Various research has taken place on the concept of complexityhave been able to produce some significant notions and results (Gransberg, et al., 2012). The concepts of organisational complexity and technological complexity aids to understand the core components of project complexity. Complexity can be understood in various manner and also from different fields. Bosch-Rekveldt, et al., (2011) mentioned, complexity is fundamentally that property of any model that makes it problematic for formulating the overall behaviour within one given language, even after providing reasonably complete informationregarding the atomic components and the inter-relations. Complexity theory has been gaining large significance in various scientific disciplines and slowly had extended its usage within the fields of project management (Pitsis, et al., 2014). Construction is often considered as a risky and complex project and it may be perceived as the most intricatetask that exits within any industry.


A definitelyinstituted project management theory describes that the start of any project should begin with a clear understanding regarding the nature of the project. As per the understanding of project management, project is a simple and ordered process and therefore is probablephenomenon that can be segregated into activities, assignments, work packages and contracts that require execution in a more or less interpedently (Ahern, Leavy, and Byrne, 2014). The perception of nature of the projects to be linear and ordered may be considered as a mistake and therefore, the process of project management is required to perceive projects as dynamic and complex phenomenon within a nonlinear setting (Wood and Ashton, 2009). Project complexity can be defined as a single or a combination of various factors that have the ability of affecting the standard actions or responses that are taken for achieving the project outcomes.

As mentioned by Wood and Ashton (2009), project complexities within construction industry can be considered as follows:

• These include a large number of interfaces that exists between elements

• These include a large number of varied systems that are required to be put together

• When a project comprises of construction processes within confined sites, and encounters access difficulties as well as requires various trades to be working in close proximities within same time.

• These include a great deal of intricacy that is hard to specify clearly as the manner in which a desired goal can be achieved and the time duration it would take.

• These include the projects that involves lots of details regrading its manner of execution.

• These include effective coordination, control as well as monitoring right from the initiation until completion.

• These involve logical connections as the complex projects generally encounter series of revisions throughout the constructions and these may not have any kind of interrelationship between the activities which makes it difficult for successfully updating the program in the most effective manner.

It has been mentioned by Wood and Ashton (2009), that there appears to be two standpoints associated with project complexity within project management processes. These include:

• The managerial perspectives that encompasses the planning of assembling together several parts of the work for forming work flow.

• The technological and operative perspectives that encompasses the technical difficulties or intricacies to execute the individual pieces of tasks. This has the ability to originate from the varied resources that are used as well as the environment within which the work is conducted.

Project complexity can be considered as the measure of difficulty that is associated with the execution of a complex production process, where it is considered as having a varied number of complicated individual components that are compiled together to form an intricate operational network for developing a work flow that requires completion within the stipulated production quality, cost and time as well as to achieve the required function while avoiding the unwanted conflicts that exists between the different parties that are involved with the process (Senescu, Aranda-Mena, and Haymaker, 2012). Furthermore, it can also be defined as the measure of intricacy associated with the implementation of a planned number of quantifiable objectives. The sources of complexity factors that have the capacity of affecting the managerial objectives within construction projects, can be categorised into two:

• Category A: This is associated with the components which are essential with respect to the operations of the distinct tasks and has the capacity to originate from the resources that are being employed or the surrounding environment of operations.

• Category B:This is associated with those elements that arise from bringing various parts together for forming a work flow.

The significance of complexities with respect to the procedure of project management, as mentioned by Padalkar, and Gopinath, (2016),can be listed as follows:

• Project complexities have the capacity to aid in determining the requirements for planning, coordination and control

• Project complexities have the ability of hindering the clear identification of objectives and goals of any major project

• Complexity is considered as a significant criterion for selecting a suitable form of project organisation.

• Project complexities have the capacity of influencing the selection of inputs of the projects such as experience and expertise that are required of management personnel.

• Project complexities are often used as the criteria for selection of appropriate arrangements of project procurement

• Project complexities have the ability of affecting the quality, time and cost objectives of the project. Widely, it can be mentioned that with higher project complexities, the cost and time required would be greater. 

The construction projects are considered as complex systems which is an ordered and linear phenomenon that can be planned, organised, and managed in a top down manner. The major factors of project complexities can be categories as uncertainties, organisational inherent complexities, number of technologies, inherent complexities, overlap of concurrencies or phases and rigidity of sequences (Koppenjan, et al., 2011). Project complexities areoften considered as the reasons or contributing factors of failures of project management.


• different tools and techniques to aid a project manager manage complex projects;

Answer: For managing complex projects, the managers are required to define the project structure in such manner that the same aids in to accomplish the project contract or charter, as well as vision of the project. Furthermore, the project manager is required to help the project team towards achievement of the triple constraints while encouraging emergence and interactions amongst them. The managers are also responsible for establishing a well-defined project plan that would function as an area of order (Vidal, Marle, and Bocquet, 2011). Here, the area of order signifies the plans, guidance, policies and procedures that are required to define and establish the project for achievement of the success. There are several frameworks of managing complex projects. One of the most significant frameworks of complex project management is the ESI's complex project model. This can be elucidated as follows:

Knowledge of complexity: It is the science that helps the individuals to understand the interactions which takes place in a project.

Communication: The methods of communication is crucial for communicating the critical information that are to be transferred amongst the project team as well as to gain essential feedbacks (Bosch-Rekveldt, 2011).

Project management: It is fundamentally the application of the competencies and disciplines that are required for managing the complex projects.

Leadership: The project managers play a significant role to guide and manage the projects as well as the associated interactions (Yang, Huang, and Wu, 2011).

Management of complex projects requires understanding of a wide array of areas that eventually aid in the successful completion of the project. For managing complex projects, there are certain tools and techniques that are used by the project manager so as to be able to manage the complex project in an efficient manner.

The major tools and techniques that are associated with the management of complex project, include the following:

Risk Management

Risks are the probabilities or chances of the occurrence of something that can be quantified. In the environment of projects, there exists the possibility of risks that result from adverse conditions. A project manager is required to consider various activities, works and tasks for accomplishing the project deliverables, as well as contemplate the risks that would result as an unexpected outcome. It is important to properly document t the financial as well as non-financial impact of every risk on the project and classify them accordingly so as to gain a better understanding regarding its implications (H.Kerzner, andH.R. Kerzner, 2017). The different models such as PEST analysis or similar derivatives would aid in the analysis of different kinds of risks. The process of risk management requires establishment of committee that would address the risk issues that have been identified. Furthermore, a proper risk register is to be maintained which would document all the identified risks in a prioritised and ranked order. The document shall also comprise of the consequences and significance of each of the risks that have been reported (Walker, 2015). Additionally, the document of risk register should comprise of the details regarding all the individuals who have been assigned with responsibilities for managing different kinds of risks that have bee identified. Furthermore, the document must comprise of the actions and measures that are to be taken for mitigation of each risk, under the circumstance if the risk occurs. Furthermore, the project manager has the responsibility of reviewing and refining the existing processes of risk management at regular intervals for continuous improvement as well as to ascertain that the mitigation process would be successful.

The different risk management strategies include the following steps:

• Retaining the risk (or absorption): If the risk has limited power and is small that it would not be affectingthe project to a great deal.

• Avoiding the risk (or avoidance): This requires taking actions so as to ensure that the risks are avoided or prevented in some manner in the manner that is feasible.

• Reducing the risk (or reduction): This ensures that the risk is minimised with the help of effective control systems so that the events that progress would be under the estimated aspect.

• Transferring the risk (or transference): This ensures that the risk is transferred to any third party, although this is an expensive process.

• Containing the risk (or containment): This encompasses taking immediate actions that would safeguard any kind of unwanted occurrence so as to prevent the situation from taking place. Contain implies controlling or lessening the intensity or holding restraints, which is very similar to risk reduction (Söderlund, 2011).

The Budgeting Process

Budgeting is fundamentally the quantified or forecasted plan of action. A budget manual is prepared for providing instructions, delegating responsibilities, communicating the deadlines and timetable for submission as well as reporting lines for submission of different budgets. The process of producing budgets comprises of forming a budget committee that would coordinate and administrate the procedure of production of different budgets (Ramazani, and Jergeas, 2015). The budget committeesis required to centrally control the procedure of budgets that is being produced and communicate the same with other departments and coordinating and consolidating with them with the production of various budgets that are being prepared. The budget process also requires appointment of budget officer or accountant who would assist the budget committee (Ramazani, and Jergeas, 2015). The purpose of budget includes planning, resource utilisation, integration or coordination, motivation and evaluation.

Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

The intention of using work breakdown structure is to aid with the effective planning of the project by dividing the key activities and tasks into several manageable smaller units of work. The WBS is fundamentally a detailed list of the activities that are to be performed for a project and would aid in delivering better costing, resource planning and scheduling of a project. Cost breakdown structure (CBS) enlists the different elements that are classified, along with the expenditure of the same, for the project so as to obtain a more detailed estimate of the expenditure or cost (Sharon, de Weck, and Dori, 2011). The benefits of using WBS can be listed as follows:

• It can be used for allocating and delegating the responsibilities for helping in the accomplishment different activities and tasks.

• It is helpful in sequencing and scheduling the timing of various events for improving the efficiency of the allocation of time.

• It is useful in improving the process of resource planning as well as the efficacy of managing the consumption of the resources.

• It can be used as the foundation of the financial exception reporting as well as for more accurate forecasting of the project costing.

• WBS is helpful for the process of risk management as well as monitoring the ongoing processes for identification of any risks (Sharon, de Weck, and Dori, 2011).


Gantt Charts

The Gantt chart is an effective tool for managing complex projects as it depicts each tasks or activities as blocks over time with the actual performance being recorded in the real time and the same is compared to the planned deadlines that are required for the achievement of project completion. The Gantt chart is useful as a project management tool in the following manner:

• It is useful to plan the time scale for any project

• It is useful to estimate the resources that are required

• It provides the graphical illustration of the schedule of the different activities and tasks

• It aids in the planning, coordinating and tracking the specific activities of the project

• It is useful for small projects due to the small number of activities and tasks as well as aids to reduce complexities (Hall, 2012).

Network AnalysisorCritical Path Analysis (CPA)

Critical path or network analysis displays a more logical sequence and timing of each activities, and these are able to communicate with interdependency as well as more efficiency with respect to time management, thereby becoming an excellent tool for complex and large projects. The critical path (network) analysis can be used as a tool in the following manner:

• It offers effective visual communication as well as serves as an excellent planning tool for efficient time management

• It clearly presents the interdependent associations that exist between the various tasks as well as activities that are to be completed.

• It arranges the activities and tasks within an optimum sequence of events that allows the project to become complete within the most effective possible time.

• It aids to calculate the estimated time that is required for completing the project in a successful manner, while achieving the project activities.

• It aids in the development of more efficient resource planning, so that the resources can be diverted away from the non-critical activities towards the critical activities (Browning, 2014).

• It highlights the float times of all the activities that is the amount of times of activities or tasks that can slip past its planned time of completion, without causing any kind of delay the elapsed.

The critical path analysis comprises of the following process:

• Break down the project into a logical sequence of activities for completion in an effective manner.

• Estimating the time duration that is required for each activity

• Arranging the activities in the most efficacious sequence of events as well as estimating the elapsed time of the projects (Browning, 2014).

Project Evaluation and Review Techniques (PERT)

The technique of PERT aids in giving better time estimate of any project by taking into account the uncertainty when predicting the durations of the tasks. The advantages of PERT are that it aids in the identification of the interrelationships between the various activities and tasks. Furthermore, it aids in the planning and allocation of the resources (Larson, and Gray, 2015). PERT is also helpful as effective communication and planning tool for management of time.

Project Management Software

The various kinds of project management software that are available in the market such as Microsoft Exchange / Outlook, and Lotus Domino / Notes. These are fairly integrated and comprehensive packages that offer various project applications such as timesheets, resource management, help desk services, expense reports, time reporting and job costing, along with other features (Burke, 2013). The fundamental benefits of project management software can be listed as follows:

• Project scheduling

• Work breakdown structure

• Risk management

• Reprinting reports

• Ease of updating

• Greater accuracy

• Coordination and communication management

• Budgeting and controlling costs

With the help of the various project management tools and techniques, the project manager shall be able to effectively manage the complex projects and ensure efficacy with respect to the results.


• the degree and nature of the projects cases discussed in the unit in the context of the theories and ideas related to complex projects.

Then you must write an essay describing how you consider the points above are related to:-

• projects with lots of parts and interconnections;

• projects that contain a great deal of uncertainty;

• project that are heavily time-constrained.

Answer: Initiated in the name of Millennium Dam, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has been built on the Nile river, at 40 km east of Sudan, owned by the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation. It has been constructed with a total budget of nearly 4.7 billion USD and completed within the span of 2011-2017. The purpose of this dam is to generate hydro-electric power with expected energy capacity of 6000 megawatts. The technical specifications for the GERD have been presented below:

Managing Complex Project.jpg

More than 80 % of the overall population in Ethiopia inhabits in the rural territories, deriving their livelihoods from environmental resources and agriculture. Therefore, this dam is being considered important for majority of the population living the basin areas of the Nile river. As per the illustrations in the works of Jeffers, et al., (2015), it has been found that the GERD will have a serious impact on the availability of freshwater stock, thus taking a toll on the irrigation and social balance. While the GERD had been constructed with the planning to deal with the issues in population resiliency, agriculture, hydrology, social and economic systems, the approached applied for its construction project has been found to create additional depletion of the natural resources in and around the locality of the dam. The reduced freshwater availability for the hydro electric project has emerge as a serious concern for the Egyptians regarding the impact of the GERD project on agricultural production and livestock in the surrounding areas. However, GERD has been proposed to put an end, or at least diminish the water related issues over the control of the Nile river among the Egypt and Ethiopia. The construction of this dam

One of the major considerations of this type of project is related to the fact that these megaprojects tend to deal with complexities such as disputes among nations and regions related to water use and developments. Disputes over use of natural resources like water are very difficult and complex to solve, occurring in the everchanging system dynamics involving several modes of interactions, interdependencies and stakeholders thus augmenting the complexities of the project. The involvement of the stakeholder and constant upgradation of the project schedules and activities is well evident as reviewed in the works of numerous scholars, who researched in the similar aspect.

Meles Zenawi, late Prime Minister of Ethiopia, was the master mind of the project, which he launched on April 31, 2010. Much has been written and heard about it since then. The Egyptian media was quick to describe it as the most "shocking news that Egypt has ever heard in its entire history". Repeatedly returning to the idea that the Nile belonged to Egypt, the media changed the expression of Herodotus ("Egypt is the gift of the Nile") to read, "The Nile is the gift of Egypt". For the Egyptian media and many others scholars, GERD was a project designed to prevent Egyptians getting the Nile water. They launched a campaign to try to influence their political leaders to take "any necessary measures" to force Ethiopia halt GERD's construction.

The other narrative, providing for a more nuanced view of GERD's construction arose from the visit of an Egyptian Public Diplomacy entrustment to Addis Ababa in 2012. The delegation held with the late Prime Minister Meles who helped persuade them of Ethiopia's genuine position on reasonable and equitable utilization of the Nile water. Prime Minister Meles promised the delegation that Ethiopia would delay the authorization of the CFA up untilformation of a new government in Egypt. This was the beginning of new friendly approach underlining the friendly relations between the peoples of Ethiopia and Egypt, and it has persisted.

Sudan was also primarily sceptical of the impact of the Dam at the beginning, but it, too, gradually began to understand the importance of the dam for its own overall agricultural development. After carefully calculating the pros and cons of the Dam, it officially announced its support to GERD.

To help build trust and confidence in the project, Prime Minister Meles suggested an International Panel of Experts (IPoE) for reviewing the project. The IPoE's final report in early 2013 concluded that the dam was up to international standards, and that it would have no significant harm on the downstream countries. The Panel also recommended that there should be three further studies on ‘Dam safety and engineering'; ‘Water resources and hydrology;' and the ‘Environmental and socio- economic impact of the dam (Taye, et al., 2016).

Despite this during the presidency of Mohammed Mursi, the Interim government continued to agitate against the Dam. During a live televised discussion of a meeting of President Mursi and various political party leaders some raised the option of taking military measures; and President Mursi himself said: "If Ethiopia is not going to pause the construction of the dam; all options are on the table"; adding, "A drop of Nile water will be equivalent to Egyptians drop of blood". It was hardly a diplomatic approach. The fact describes that a project can be evaluated from various perspectives from the beneficial angles of the investors and stakeholders. The intensive political and social concerns rising around the construction the dam exemplifies the need for considering various scenarios while taking into account of the plausible climate change outcomes (Kahsay, et al., 2015).

Things changed with the election of President Abdul Fattah Al Sisi who supported the approach of cooperation and of finding a win-win solution for the dispute over the GERD. An official visit to Ethiopia, the first by an Egyptian President, marked the beginning of an era of cooperation. His visit led to the signing of various bilateral agreements that aimed to enhance economic and social ties between two brotherly nations. It also conveyed a message to the international community that the two countries were committed to consider relations more widely than just hydro-politics of the Nile (Tawfik, 2016).

Subsequently, the leaders of the three states, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt, agreed the establishment of Tripartite National Committee to conduct the two IPoE recommended studies. The three leaders then signed the Declaration of Principles in March 2015, accepting the international principles of fair and equitable utilization. The Declaration of Principles states that the three countries would require utilization of their shared water resources in their respective territories within areasonable and equitablemanner. This part illustrates the involvement of the key objectives along with the multiple stakeholders required for availing permission for the project. Thus, it has been clearly depicted that in complex projects, the active involvement is required from both the project team members and stakeholders for a comprehensive assessment of the risk and issues that arise mayduring the course of the project, similar to the facts stated in the works of Haghshenas, et al. (2016).

This successful effort to produce calm diplomacy was followed by the highly successful visits of an Ethiopian Public Diplomacy Delegation to Sudan and Egypt in January 2014 and December 2015 respectively; and a visit of a Sudanese Public Diplomacy Delegation to Ethiopia in April 2016. The exchange of visits of the Ethiopian Orthodox and Egyptian Coptic Church Patriarchs was also an indication of the growing trust-building measures to enhance people-to-people relations.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which will generate 6000 megawatts when finished, reached 50% completion in May this year. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, in an interview with Egypt's El-Hayat TV, downplayed the Egyptian media's propaganda: "The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam has become a reality. It is pointless to bury our heads in the sand by not acknowledging a tangible physical reality." This signalled a major shift in approach, emanating from a belief in the reality that GERD will be completed soon. It also underlines that the construction of GERD is building up the confidence of the Nile riparian states in the concept of the fair and equitable utilization principle.

The benefits GERD has to offer have convinced Sudan to support the project officially. Sudan has, in fact, come to understand the scientific importance of the Dam for Sudan's own development. Sudan now believes in the fair, reasonable and equitable utilization of the Nile water. GERD is also being used as a diplomatic tool to convince Egypt of the internationally accepted principles of sharing trans-boundary resources. The result of this could be seen in the official visit of President Abdul Fattah Al Sisi to Ethiopia, a visit demonstrating Egypt's changing approach towards its relations with Ethiopia. The driving force behind President Al Sisi's visit was a shift in Cairo's previously aggressive stance to one of calm diplomacy.

The name of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam underlines the determination of Ethiopians, at home or abroad, to stand united against the country's main enemy - poverty. To quote Engineer Simegnew Bekele, the Project Manager of the GERD, speaking at a meeting to brief the Ethiopian Public Diplomacy Delegation: it is more than 100% sure that the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance dam will be completed soon and the electric power grids which will be routed to Sudan and then crossing the Sahara desert will replace the footprint of the regional youngsters dying and suffering while they migrate to Europe in search of better life. Henceforth the lives of the people in the surrounding regions will be better, who aspire to enter Europe in search of better life, will remain in their native land. Renaissance dam's electric power that will be exported to Europe will replace and shine for bringing benefits to the households of the surrounding regions.

Conclusion: The management of complex projects require consideration of various aspects that surround the project. There are various theories associated with the complex projects that the project manager can consider while development of the project management plan. From the above discussion it is clearly demonstrated that the involvement of various stakeholder steepens the risks and uncertainties of an already complex project. Rather the scope and objectives of the project can be modified during the course of the project which adds to the further convolutions of the project.


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