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By Stephane Tywoniak, Academic Director, Master of Business in Complex Project Leadership


According to the International Centre for Complex Project Management (ICCPM), projects are truly complex when: scope definition evolves due to environmental and stakeholder influences and requires multiple waves of planning; multiple interdependencies make it difficult to fully decompose the work into independent tasks; work is distributed across organizations, geographies and jurisdictions. In other words, the traditional tools of project management defined by international standards (e.g. PMP, Prince2) are not sufficient to ensure the successful delivery of complex projects.


So What is the Toolkit Required for Success, and How Should it be Used?

Recent academic research (Bentahar & Tywoniak, 2017) on the roles required for project success indicates that whilst more simple projects require an emphasis on traditional management roles (planning, execution and control), complex projects require management roles and leadership roles combined (strategic vision, innovation, team integration, stakeholder engagement). Successfully delivering complex projects requires management and leadership.

presentation That is the approach that we have adopted at Telfer’s Master of Business in Complex Project Leadership (MBCPL), which is founded on three pillars:

  • Systems thinking in order to navigate complexity, approach wicked problems from multiple perspectives at once, and recommend innovative solutions;
  • Strategic management and decision-making: we use evidence-based approaches to improve the effectiveness of action, the quality of decisions, and develop smart risk strategies; and
  • Leadership development is required to communicate persuasively, engage stakeholders and successfully integrate diverse teams.

A qualification in complex project leadership such as MBCPL is not a substitute for a traditional PM certification, rather it complements and completes it with the tools, methods, and skills required to successfully navigate complexity.


Primacy to Scope, Cost and Time Primacy to Realising Planned Benefits
  • Process and task focused
  • Aligned with the business strategy
Reductionism Holistic Systems Thinking
  • Fixed scope
  • Work breakdown structure
  • System of systems 
  • Numerous influential stakeholders
Rational, Universal and Deterministic Complex Adaptive System
  • Linear, sequential approach
  • Resists environmental change
  • Multidimensional, unpredictable
  • Environment affects and is effected
Administrative Management Adaptive & Enabling Leadership
  • Control - process compliance
  • Project plan is the map
  • Complexity management
  • Plans use multiple maps relevant to the terrain

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