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Complex projects are not managed, they are led.

Complex projects, such as the construction of railways, highways and ships as well as large procurements in areas of national defence, civilian infrastructure and safety, are critical to the well-being and quality of life of citizens.

However, a significant portion of such projects go over budget or are not delivered at all.  Project complexity, poor execution, and lack of organizational capabilities are often the contributing factors to these project failures.

The Telfer School of Management offers the Graduate Diploma in Complex Project Leadership for university credit to those interested in honing their complex project leadership (CPL) skills.

Graduate Diploma in Complex Project Leadership At a Glance

The Graduate Diploma in Complex Project Leadership provides the opportunity for practicing managers to hone their skills in Complex Project Leadership in as little as 10 months.

Candidates in the Diploma will take a maximum of ten (10) courses.

One course includes travel within North America and overseas. 

Graduate Diploma
Number of Credits:
15 credits
Academic credits can be transferred to the Telfer MBA Program
Next Start Date:
Program Length:
10 months
$15,000 + part-time graduate student ancillary fees.
Diploma graduates can apply their 15 graduate credits toward the Telfer MBA Program.
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Graduate Diploma in Complex Project Leadership

Who can benefit from this diploma?

This diploma is for practicing managers who are responsible for large, complex projects and who are looking to develop leadership and project management skills specifically related to Complex Project Leadership, including: 

  • Portfolio, Program, and Project Manager
  • Key Advisor (public and private industry), key team members
  • Senior Systems Engineer
  • Procurement and Commercial Manager
  • Business Development and Capture Manager
  • Military Project Directors
  • Holders of an MBA or other graduate degree, looking to hone their skills in complex projects

What is the delivery format for this diploma?

  • Class offerings occur between September and June annually.
  • Classes are a combination of in-person and online sessions, in a modular format.
  • Travel for course work is required for one week in mid-June.

What university courses will I take?

Managers of complex programs deal with “wicked problems” whose resolution requires holistic approaches, sophisticated thinking and pluralist methodologies. This unit provides foundational knowledge related to systems methodologies and their underpinning epistemologies that enable project managers to solve complex program problems in context. Models and tools are introduced for students to differentiate between reductionist and holistic approaches to problem solving; achieve creative organizational learning and navigate non-linearity from chaos through to equilibrium across orders of complexity.

Project teams are key to project, program and portfolio success. This course will examine intra and inter-team interdependencies, processes, emergent states, and how these relate to team and systems of teams’ effectiveness. Design plans will be introduced to monitor the adaptive capacity of teams and systems over time. Interpersonal and practitioner skills will be honed to manage collaboration at individual, team and multi-team levels.

Acquisition strategies examines how various procurement methodologies, financing strategies, and ownership mechanisms best deliver value for money, deal with the risks and opportunities across the complete life-cycle and how this links to the acquisition business case. The unit also captures the need to deal with industry development objectives, the importance of robust cost estimation, and risk sharing strategies within a suitable governance framework.

Complex program leaders learn to balance and act upon the risks that threaten success while exploiting opportunities emerging from uncertainty. An infamous but perennial feature of many complex programs is unwarranted optimism that underestimates cost and schedule challenges while overestimating benefits. This course goes beyond classic reductionist risk mitigation by applying systemic thinking and advanced risk analytics with a focus on realizing value and by considering the incentives, penalties and opportunities associated with risk transfer and insurance. Exposure to generally accepted risk management practices including international risk management standards and frameworks will be provided.

This course focuses on planning for new projects or for substantial changes to existing projects using a business case approach. The material will address gap analysis, definition of expected outcomes benefits realization, and creation of cost/benefit models to support the proposed project. In addition, the use of management control systems as well as formative and summative evaluation models will be introduced. The participant is enabled to clearly articulate a business case in support of enhanced decision making and approval processes.

Explore and develop the skills necessary to increase personal negotiation performance in a complex project management environment. Understand negotiation and dispute resolution approaches and models, the use of mediation and recognition of cross-cultural perspectives and the need to get a decision that both parties will be able and willing to implement. Negotiate for results, recognizing the interplay of interests, values and personalities. Organize for conflict interventions and develop plans for negotiation, strategic influencing, facilitated mediation and alternate dispute resolution.

Exploration of differences between project, program and portfolio management. Implementation science and practice applied to complex projects, programs and portfolios. 

Financial planning and decision-making competencies are examined to include analysis of the financial position of contractors or alliance partners, advanced cost estimation techniques, life-cycle costing, investment appraisal, and application of value for money criteria. Tools for project financing to raise and maintain the flow of project capital, budget and cash flow management over the project life and selection of mechanisms to protect against foreign exchange rate or inflation fluctuations, are presented. Participants analyze reallocation and contingency related to program financial performance, foreign exchange and inflation; as well as differentiate between the value of money and value for money.

Project or program leadership in chaotic and complex environments raises a whole set of new and different challenges. This course examines complex projects and programs from the point of view of creative problem solving processes, opportunity identification and implementation, and entrepreneurial thinking at the individual, team, and larger system levels. The course focuses ultimately on the shift in leader mindset from challenges representing problems to problems representing opportunities. Students will learn to map the system of complex project/program environments and strategize to meet the interests of the associated stakeholders; and use Socio-Technical System (STS) tools and techniques to identify technical and social opportunities for system improvements and increased program success.

In recognition of the international nature of most complex projects, attention is given to managing across borders and cultures with multiple stakeholders. This course offers a rich learning opportunity to analyse a broad range of international projects and programs at various stages of their life cycles, through on-site visits, as well as to leverage the experience and glean best practices from world class project leaders and managers. *Requires International Travel.

What are the minimum requirements to apply?

  • An undergraduate degree, holding a minimum of a 70% average. In lieu of a post-secondary degree, a request for acceptance based on substantive managerial or professional training and experience can be made.
  • Minimum of five years of relevant work experience in complex projects or procurement.
  • Proficiency in English

What is the name of the diploma that I will be awarded upon completion?

Upon successful completion of the academic courses, you will be awarded a Graduate Diploma in Complex Project Leadership 

What are the tuition fees?

$15,000, plus University of Ottawa Ancillary Fees for a Part-Time Graduate student.

How do I register for the Graduate Diploma in Complex Project Leadership? 

You can register through the Ontario Universitie's Application Centre (OUAC). 

Once you've created your account, click on "By degree" in select program and choose "Diploma", then select "Complex Project Leadership, Graduate Diploma" from the list. 

Connect with our This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.with any questions regarding the admissions process:


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