1. Assemble the Right Team
Teams determine whether a project succeeds or fails. However, team building is not as easy as it seems. The eyes to recognise the best, sell them on an offer and manage them to work together is a skill only a few project managers have mastered.
Complexity thrives in uncertainty, dependency and interdependency, technology and innovation. You want to have a team who understands these dynamics well enough to predict a project’s future and prepare for it. Also, assembling a dream team is only one of many steps. Your team must understand their roles, play their positions and learn to assist other teammates throughout the project’s duration.
The earliest sign of complexity is the abundance of legitimate distractions. What starts as a building project could easily veer into a mini tech project if you fail to priroritise.
Distractions are the most expensive factors of project failure because they zap your most valuable resource, time. As a project manager, you must master the art of stratifying your tasks using the Eisenhower matrix: Urgent and Important, Urgent but not Important, Not Important but Urgent, Not Important and Not Urgent. When you master prioritisation and focus, you and your team are a formidable force.
3. Know Your Stakeholders
Your team members qualify to be called stakeholders. But there are levels to stakeholdership. On whose say-so does the project succeed or fail? Who represents the interests of the project outside the project’s delivery environment?
Many project managers assume that everyone impacts the project uniformly. From my experience, this is far from true. The most powerful stakeholders I know occupy some or all of these positions: The client or their representative, government authorities, project boards, subject matter experts, community leaders and those affected directly by the project. So, identify your stakeholders, understand their roles, clarify expectations and keep them involved.
Dynamism is the stuff of complex projects. The intricate interdependency in the system means that you’ll experience fast, multiple changes. Realtime communication is key here.
A complex project could be affected by a sudden labour crisis or a market tickle that sends the price of essential materials over the roof. While there are contingency plans and shock absorbers built into most projects, how well and soon your team members can bring them to bear depends on the strength of your communication system.
As digital tools continue to make face-to-face meetings unnecessary, don’t forget to have a real conversation with your team and stakeholders.
5. Adapt and Assess
No matter how realistic your plan is, it will be miles away from the reality after implementation. Therefore, adaptability and continual assessment is key.
Projects fail due to lack of regular assessment by the project manager; for smaller projects, most PMs simply set goals, assign tasks and check in near the deadlines. This system cannot work in complex projects because it’s harder to expedite last-minute changes due to the projects nature. Therefore, continual assessment is crucial to knowing what’s working and what’s not before it gets too late.