I am working in collaboration with Danny Chesterman, Sue Pritchard and Bill Knight to deliver a 3-day course designed to assist programme/project managers leading major complex projects.


Leading Complex Major Projects


Those involved with the delivery of today’s major projects and programmes are increasingly challenged by the complexity and uncertainty of the environment in which they are required to deliver results. Reinforcing traditional tools for planning and control is not the full answer, and this is changing the way managers think and inter act with the challenges of complex projects.

Ashridge Centre for Action Research  worked with some of these experienced practitioners to explore the question why, in spite of all the investment made on project management, do some of the most highly resourced, independently evaluated, national-critical and politically important projects still fail to deliver what’s expected of them?  Results were published in an article in our 360 magazine and we are now launching a  three  day programme (being held at Ashridge 5-7 February 2014)  aimed at developing people who are leading bigger and more complex projects/programmes. The programme is aimed at those who bring with them an understanding of the processes and techniques of project and programme management as a necessary skill but are aware these are not on their own sufficient for achieving outcomes in more complex or major projects . It draws on Ashridge’s reputation and expertise in the field of organisational learning, leading change, and human dynamics.

The programme will be jointly facilitated by tutors who between them have deep experience of organisation change and of delivering big complex projects/programmes. The principles underpinning the approach to learning would be:

  • drawing on trans-disciplinary research
  • using a participant-centred approach
  • with embedded action learning

The programme will help participants to gain insights into the effectiveness of their thinking and practice as a project/programme manager, and in particular:

  • develop a deeper understanding of the strengths and limitations of traditional project management disciplines
  • respond more coherently and confidently to uncertainty, ambiguity and complexity
  • explore assumptions about organisations and change and what works most effectively
  • develop better ways of leading and improvising in complex projects

Organisations who supply candidates on the programme will benefit from a strengthened pipeline of talent able to lead major projects, and learn from the practices of others who are at the leading edge. If they wish they can also play an ongoing role in building a cross industry community of practice that will accelerate knowledge transfer.

We have an outline design and content for the programme and are looking to tailor it to the needs of a small consortium of organisations who have a serious intent to incorporate a programme like this into their development strategy for those who have the talent to lead complex projects. If you prefer, we can design a version that is entirely in house, but most of those we have talked to relish the prospect of learning from others.

 Would you like to be one of those organisations?