Kathleen B. (Kitty) Hass

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The 2009 PMI Book of the Year!

PMI Honors Kathleen Hass

Managing Complex Projects, A New Model, by Kathleen Hass

This important contribution to Complex Project Management was awarded the 2009 PMI David I. Cleland Project Management Literature Award, to recognize and honor the best project management literature published during the previous calendar year.

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Denver, CO – October 10, 2009 - PMI announced the winner of the 2009 Book of the Year, Managing Complex Projects, A New Model, a groundbreaking study of complex project management, accompanied by practical application of complexity management techniques.  As needs change and challenges grow, project management continues to evolve to meet 21st century demands. In Managing Complex Projects: A New Model, author Kathleen B. Hass addresses what it takes for an organization to thrive, indeed to survive, in an environment rife with uncertainty. Ms. Hass offers a method for dramatically improving the performance of today’s large-scale projects. She shows how complexity thinking can complement conventional project management approaches to enable project managers and leadership teams to manage large-scale initiatives successfully.

Ms. Hass has developed a Project Complexity Model that will empower project decision-makers to assess a project’s various complexity dimensions, determine the project’s complexity profile, and apply appropriate techniques to maximize successful results. By applying a simple project complexity formula, the project manager can tailor an approach that takes into account the project’s dynamic features, such as team composition and performance; the urgency and flexibility of cost, time, and scope; strategic importance and political implications; and levels of organizational and commercial change.

The simplicity of the model is what makes it so artful—and useful. The Project Complexity Model provides a framework for diagnosing complexity on a wide range of projects. Depending on the level of complexity of a particular project, the reader is guided through a straightforward process designed to ensure that the most suitable project leader is selected and the most appropriate project cycle is used. Ms. Hass then turns to a project’s complexity dimensions, offering practical suggestions for adopting a management approach that responds to each successfully. She addresses the complexity dimensions of large, long-duration projects; large, dispersed, culturally diverse project teams; highly innovative, urgent projects; ambiguous business problems, opportunities, and solutions; projects with poorly understood, volatile requirements; high-visibility strategic projects; large-scale change initiatives; projects with significant risks, dependencies, and external constraints; and projects with a high level of IT complexity.


I have been working in the project environment for more than twenty-five years. During that time I have developed a keen understanding of the degree of difficulty that is involved in managing projects of any size. As projects get bigger and more complex, we tend to “do more of the same” applying ever great degrees of rigor in the way of methods, reviews and tests, resulting in higher-costs, and not necessarily returning value.


The Movement Has Started


It is now becoming clear that our conventional project management processes are inadequate when managing complex projects. Research is underway by the Project Management Institute and others determine what makes projects complex, and to learn how to manage project complexity. Many thought leaders in the field of project management are presenting alternative approaches to managing complex projects; you will see many of these works cited in this book.

So the movement has started. Unprecedented change is occurring all around us because of the global economy, the internet and the omnipresent nature of information technology. Since projects are our means to execute strategies and react to changes in the marketplace, the capability to do project management effectively is no longer an option. If organizations are unable to execute projects, their very survival is likely to be at risk. Since the stakes are so high, we are beginning to redefine project success to be about delivering business value as opposed to simply delivering on time, on budget and on scope. Yet, our ability to manage complex projects is immature and inadequate. We are now realizing that new approaches are desperately needed to manage complex projects in the ever-changing global economic environment.


Introducing the Project Complexity Model

 This book does not attempt to define project complexity; we will leave that to the academics. What we do is explore the nature of complexity theory as it applies to projects. We argue that complexity abounds in 21st century projects; that project teams are complex adaptive social systems nested within companies, which are also complex adaptive systems operating within the global economy (which is also a complex adaptive system); and that large-scale complex business solutions must be adaptive (easy to change as the business environment changes). Therefore, our challenge is to learn how to employ complexity thinking to complement our conventional project management methods to manage 21st century projects


Who Will Benefit

 This book is groundbreaking in that it presents a new model for project leadership teams to diagnose project complexity and to make decisions about how to plan and manage projects based on the project complexity profile. Anyone challenged with filling a leadership role on a critical project will benefit from reading about complexity theory and learning how to apply complexity thinking to make managerial decisions on their project.

It is no long just about the project manager. Combining disciplines leads to success, and complex projects must be led by a highly seasoned, multi-talented senior team consisting of strategic thinkers. The complex project leadership team should be comprised of the best resources available who are experienced project managers, business analysts, solution architects and developers, and a business visionary. This complex project leadership team collaboratively diagnoses the dimensions of project complexity using the new Project Complexity Model to inform them about the nature of complexity that they are dealing with. They then make managerial decisions about how to reduce and manage the complexities. As project success improves, we will all benefit.

A Peek Inside

The Introduction explores the current state of project performance. It looks at the amount of and reasons for unprecedented change in the business environment. It then explores the track record for project performance – which is quite alarming – and presents the case for finding new ways to think about and manage complex projects. The book is then comprised of four parts.

Part One defines and explores the nature of complexity theory and complex adaptive systems, and how complexity science can be applied to projects. A comparison is made between convention project management techniques versus adaptive approaches that use complexity thinking. The Project Complexity Model is introduced and how to use the model to help manage complex projects is discussed.

Part Two suggests using the Project Complexity Model to inform decisions about project resource assignments. It provides an overview of the competencies required to manage complex projects, discusses strategies to develop complex project managers, and makes recommendations to apply complexity thinking to select leaders of complex projects.

Part Three suggests using the Project Complexity Model to make decisions about the appropriate project cycle to use. Part Three discusses and recommends appropriate project cycles for independent, low-risk projects, for moderately complex projects, and for highly complex projects.

Part Four is the heart of the book. It discusses the nature of complexity dimensions, the causes of the complexity, and makes suggestions for dealing with each complexity dimension in the Project Complexity Model. All of the dimensions of complexity that are contained in the model are analyzed, including: large, long-duration projects, projects with multiple dispersed, diverse project teams, urgent projects, projects with unclear business problems, opportunities and/or solutions, projects with volatile, ambiguous requirements, highly visible, politically sensitive projects, projects involving large-scale cultural change, project dependent on external factors and constraints, and project involving unproven IT technology.