Strategies for Leading Complex Projects

Business Acumen

Rick Hefner, PhD

Executive Director

Center for Technology & Management Education, California Institute of Technology


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About the Presentation

In today's dynamic and rapidly evolving business landscape, project managers are frequently tasked with leading complex projects that demand a unique set of skills and strategies. This presentation provides project managers with practical insights and actionable techniques for identifying and effectively leading complex projects.

1.    Identifying Factors that Make a Project Complex: We will explore the various dimensions of complexity, including technical, organizational, and external factors that can influence project complexity. Participants will learn how to assess and categorize complexity to tailor their management approaches accordingly.

2.    Making Effective Decisions Under Uncertain Conditions: Complex projects often involve ambiguity and uncertainty. We will discuss strategies for making well-informed decisions in the face of limited information. Decision-making frameworks and risk management techniques will be presented to empower project managers to navigate uncertainty with confidence.

3.    Managing Conflict Without Draining Your Energy: Conflict is an inherent part of complex projects. We will offer practical approaches to identify, address, and resolve conflicts without letting them become energy-draining distractions. Conflict resolution strategies that preserve team cohesion and focus will be highlighted.

4.    Applying Systems Thinking Principles and Tools to Project Management: Systems thinking is a powerful approach to understanding and managing complexity. We will introduce key principles and tools that project managers can use to analyze and address complex project dynamics. Participants will gain insights into how to identify system interdependencies and leverage them for better project outcomes.

5.    Communicating Decisions to Your Team and Senior Management: Effective communication is essential in complex project environments. We will explore communication strategies for conveying decisions, progress, and challenges to both project teams and senior management. Tips for crafting clear and persuasive messages will be shared to ensure alignment and support from stakeholders.

Learning Objectives:

·         Identify the factors which make a project complex (as opposed to complicated or challenging)

·         Make effective decisions under uncertain conditions

·         Manage conflict without draining your energy

·         Apply systems thinking principles and tools to project management

·         Communicate decisions to your team and senior management

About Rick Hefner

Dr. Rick Hefner serves as the Executive Director for Caltech's Center for Technology and Management Education, which provides training programs to technology-driven professionals and organizations. He has over 40 years of experience in project management and has worked with companies and government agencies in the aerospace, communications, electronics, and health sciences industries. Dr. Hefner is credited with over 200 publications, and is active in several professional societies. He has his BS and MS in Engineering from Purdue and his PhD in Engineering from UCLA.