Underestimating project complexity is widely accepted as one of the major causes of project failure. Based on international benchmarking activities (Merrow, 2010), we know that an average of 40% of projects do not deliver what they promised; for megaprojects in the oil and gas industry this figure is even worse (Ernst&Young, 2014).
As with most external factors, many of the causes and consequences of complexity are difficult to avoid or control. When dealing with complexity, standard practices in the field of project management often overlook the inherent uncertainties linked to the length and scale of engineering and infrastructure projects and their constantly changing environments. The situation is exacerbated by rapidly evolving technologies and social change.
Attempts to overcome these challenges by simply trying to reduce their causes is not enough.
In this course, you will learn our approach to mastering complexity, focused on front-end development and teamwork, which will help you develop the skills you need to make timely actions in order to tackle complexities and improve your chances of project success. You will learn how to enhance your own capacities and capabilities by ensuring you have the necessary balance of complementary skills in your team.
Project success starts with recognizing the main drivers of complexity, which can be highly subjective and highly dynamic. In this course, you will learn to identify what makes a project complex and how to perform a complexity assessment.
Examining the elements of a project (such as interfaces, stakeholders, cultures, environment, technology, etc.) and their intricate interactions is key to mastering complexity.
You will analyze these elements in the context of your own project. Then, based on our complexity framework, you will identify the complexity footprint of your project and use it to adapt your management processes. With personalized guidance and feedback from our world-class instructors, you will learn how to recognize what competencies you need to develop and how to adapt your management style accordingly, not only to improve project performance but also to enhance your decision-making capacity.
This course has been designed by TU Delft's international experts on Project Complexity, and is based on more than 60 years of practical experience as well as relevant research in the field. "We see projects still fail and there is a need to do things differently. That's what this course is about: delivering the best practices for project execution based on our state-of-the-art research." – Professor Hans Bakker.
This course is part of the Professional Certificate Program Management of Engineering Projects; Dealing with Complexity.
What you'll learn
- To identify complexity and its elements.
- To perform a project complexity assessment.
- To develop a complexity footprint.
- To adapt your management processes to fit the complexities of your project.
- To master project complexity.
Course syllabusWeek 1: Understanding project complexity
This week introduces the program with some questions to help you understand project complexity. What does it entail? What is it comprised of? What are the main models of complexity? What is the (subjective) nature of complexity?
Week 2: Project complexity assessment
You will create a complexity footprint for your own project. You will use the TOE framework as a means to grasp project complexity. There will be an emphasis on identifying, assessing and understanding project complexity at the earliest possible stages.
Week 3: Managing project complexity
Now that you are aware of the project's complexity, we will discuss how to manage the particular complexities faced. We will provide a palette of different management approaches. You will compare these approaches with the way your own project has been managed.
Week 4: Mastering complexity
And finally, we will discuss how to adjust your management approach to the specific complexities experienced (or expected) and how to maximize the value of your project. This is not about decreasing complexity but rather dealing with complexity and embracing it to fully realize the project's potential. One size does not fit all!
Week 5: Wrap-up and peer review
During the last week of the course you will have time to reflect on the course and you will review your peers' work.
The course materials of this course are Copyright Delft University of Technology and are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC-BY-NC-SA) 4.0 International License.
This is a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) that runs on edX.
Together with our online professional education course on Project Finance, this course builds on the basic project management knowledge and capabilities acquired from our MOOC 'Project Management' (MEP101x). To fully benefit from the Mastering Complexity course, this MOOC and/or any other equivalent knowledge on this subject is regarded as prerequisite.