Master the Complexity of Your Projects

Naomi Caietti, PMP is managing editor of She launched her own consulting company to provide global, on-demand virtual services for clients that need a speaker, author or coach.

What defines a complex project? Several years ago at the PMI Global Congress 2010 in Washington, D.C., a paper called “The Bottom Line on Project Complexity1 was presented by Kitty B. Haas and Lori B. Lindbergh. They provided the most recent definition as follows:

“According to Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Brisbane Australia, the CPM strategic partner of the Australian Government’s Defense Materiel Organization (DMO), complex projects are those that:

  • Are characterized by uncertainty, ambiguity, dynamic interfaces and significant political or external influences; and/or
  • Usually run over a period which exceeds the technology cycle time of the technologies involved; and/or
  • Can be defined by effect, but not by solution.”

A view from our community

“An adaptive project management approach can be used when there’s too much uncertainty for waterfall and too much complexity for agile.” – Andy Silber, PhD.

Complexity and risk run the spectrum from independent, small projects to large mega-projects. As project and program managers, we progress through our careers managing complexity in these independent small and medium projects using approaches like waterfall and agile. We may be missing opportunities to manage these types of projects using other approaches like adaptive project management.

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