Project management for large, complex projects

Summary

This expert report on project management was commissioned by the Edinburgh Tram Inquiry to address general issues about the nature, purpose and application of project management, as well as specific questions about programme management and risk management.

Traditional project management provides a set of processes, procedures and tools for managing projects on time, within budget and to the required specifications. These common processes are valuable for identifying the bodies of knowledge and detailed procedures required to set up and execute projects. However, traditional project management has been criticised in recent years for neglecting to consider the ‘strategic’ activities and decisions undertaken during the front-end planning stage of projects, which play a vital role in defining the need for a project and determining whether the goal is achieved.Traditional project management assumes that a one-size-fits-all approach – a simple, predictable and standardised model – is applicable to all types of projects.

Recent research has emphasised the need for project management to be ‘adaptive’ and flexible to address the complexities, uncertainties and challenges surrounding each project.There are clearly no magical project management cures, and no single predictable strategy will be applicable to all large, complex, high-risk projects. But many infrastructure projects in the UK now recognise the need for solutions that are designed to deal with the specific challenges involved in planning and executing large, complex projects.

Taken together, the strategic and adaptive approaches to project management identified in this report offer a more effective way of planning and managing large, complex projects

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