Profiling Project Complexity
conditions in their environments that
induce complexity. It will also serve
as an appropriate investigative frame
of reference for future work aimed at
addressing the managerial challenges
brought about by the ‘emergent,’ ‘
adaptive,’ and ‘dynamic’ behavior of projects.
Furthermore, in terms of identifying
the sources of project complexity and
understanding their effects on project
performance, the proposed complexity
profile can serve as a useful frame of
reference. An appreciation of the way
complexity attributes ‘play out’ under
a given set of circumstances may lead
to the recognition of potential trajec-tories in which a project may progress.
A deeper understanding and appreciation of the ways these factors play out
may further help to recognize the possibility of the complexity of a project
escalating from one level to another and
the circumstances under which such a
situation may arise. Alternatively, this
framework may also help practitioners to recognize the conditions under
which the complexity of a project could
cascade down from a higher level to a
lower level, thus perhaps facilitating
such movement where possible.
Thus, a project manager may benefit
from being able to develop and assess
alternative scenarios corresponding to
a project of a certain level of complexity and appropriately respond to the
emerging situations. The responses may
include strategies and actions aimed at
mitigating any negative impacts of the
challenges or successfully navigating
through them. Alternatively, situations
in which targeted responses cannot be
mounted due to a lack of capabilities or
resources at one’s disposal or the very
nature of the behavior of the project may
also be identified and acknowledged.
Similarly, ongoing research efforts
aimed at exploring the sources and
effects of project complexity may use this
complexity profile for designing empiri-
cal studies, the findings of which could
cumulatively contribute to the devel-
opment of more objective measures of
project complexity. Such studies should
continue to build upon the advances
made in the mainstream complexity sci-
ence domain, as well as other compa-
rable areas in which complexity science
concepts are widely applied.
This article has an obvious limitation
in that the posited complexity profile has
not yet been empirically tested. Future
research should involve the collection of
empirical evidence representative of the
complexity levels of projects undertaken
by different industry sectors against the
proposed three-tier hierarchy of complexity. In addition, the article didn’t
differentiate between the three levels
of complexity with any objective measures or scales; it only qualitatively discerned them. Therefore, future studies
could also involve a proof-of-concept
stage to develop a measurement scale to
assess the complexity of real-world projects against these three levels. Another
limitation of this study was excluding
the identification of specific operational responses in relation to dealing
with the challenges at varying levels of
complexity. Such activity was beyond
the intended scope of this work and
could best be developed through future
empirical studies that utilize the conceptual profile presented in this article
to inform their research designs.
Subject to successful empirical validation, further opportunities exist for
mapping the project management competencies required for dealing with the
three complexity levels identified. For
example, this complexity profile can be
used as the basis for developing a framework of project management competencies that stratifies the key elements
of practitioner knowledge, skills, and
personal attributes required to deal with
project complexity. This may then lead
to the development of targeted training
that addresses specific complexity levels.
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