Welcome to Managing Complexity in Projects


Description: Content: Projects are a form of enterprise where individuals or teams engage in the planning and execution of activities in order to reach specific goals/aim. Today projects are increasingly important because organizations continually need to relate to and engage in change processes to adapt to and compete in changing conditions. Project organization has an increasingly important role in all forms of organizations both private, public, NGO etc.

Projects as a form of work practice has consequences for both the work itself and for the products of the work process therefore it is important for everyone engaged in planning, design, development etc. to understand what projects are and how the project organization and process influences the product of a project.

Further projects today can often be characterized as complex. That is that understandings, processes and goals might be more or less uncertain and ambiguous throughout the project process and therefore resembling research processes more than standardized sequential or stage gate processes reflected in classic project management thinking. The complexities are evident both in internal and external conditions of the projects and on many levels of organization and planning. Challenges are related to for example learning, knowledge production and sharing, cooperation, power, ethical aspects etc.

Complexity in projects demands tailored understandings, techniques and processes for understanding and handling them. Understanding and handling the conditions/contexts of complex projects, therefore, is one of the key competences both for project managers but also for anyone participating in complex projects.

In understanding and handling complex projects new perspectives and forms of interaction are needed. The new perspectives for understanding complexity are e.g. sense making and socio-material approaches. New forms of interaction are e.g. Agile project management methods and participatory approaches.

In this course we look practically and theoretically on project planning and management. You will be introduced to different approaches of project management and planning.

The program will cover the following themes:

  • New Theoretical pererspectives of understanding and handling complexity (sense-making sociomaterial and practice perspective
  • Projects is seen as a journey characterised by uncertainty, ambiguity and complexity
  • Projects as heterogeneous processes of interaction involving actors, artefacts and knowledge
  • Understanding of different types of projects and the implication for management and planning activities
  • Identifying, stakeholders in socio-material perspective
  • Networking and brokering in and between projects
  • Knowledge and learning
  • Power and sense-making in projects
  • Challenges in managing complex projects
  • The role of learning and knowledge
  • Introduction to participatory perspectives on managing uncertainty, ambiguity and complexity

Form: The students should be familiar with basic understandings of planning, organizational change, technology construction and development and/or science and technology studies (the STS field) on an academic master level.

The program includes teacher presentations, student presentations, company talks, workshops and dialogue sessions. The workshops and dialogue sessions is set up in order to stimulate the active engagement of the students and will be used as spaces where 1)students will receive feedback on their presentations and projects from fellow students as well as teachers and “) spaces where the students are engaged in interactive games where they develop their skills to use participatory methods and tools in practice

As a preparation for the first assembly, participants should prepare a presentation of a problem/solution from their research, which they want to analyse from a complex project perspective. The presentation can focus on a case and/or a challenging perspective (oral supported with ppt) within the theme of the course.

Between the first and second assembly participants write a 5-10 pages analysis bringing theory to bear on selected case material of their own choice. These assignments are basis for evaluation and approval of participation.

In addition, participants will be asked to contribute to the activities through small task in order to stimulate the interactive learning processes

Preliminary programme for May 4-5, 2017

Location: Aalborg University, 9000 Aalborg.

Teachers: Associate Professor Søren Kerndrup, Associate Professor Lone Stub Petersen, Professor Lars Bo Henriksen + ??

Thursday, May 4, 9.00-19.00

09.00: Registration, Coffee

09.30: Welcome and introduction to the course

Perspectives on project management approaches, Søren Kerndrup

Introduction to participants, teachers and program

10.15: Projects and complexity – What is the problem? Lone Stub Petersen & Søren Kerndrup                        

Dialogue and discussion

12.00: Lunch

13.00: Managing of Complex projects in practice , Project management in practices of planning. (NN).

Dialogue and discussion

15.00: Participant presentation of their PhD or other projects and prepared assignment (approx. 10 min presentation + 10 min. discussion).

Coffee break

16.45: Workshop: Challenges in managing complex projects.

Including sandwiches.

18.00: Summing Up: What are the key lessons seen from a complexityperspective: How are the complexities conceptualised and used? Lone Stub Petersen & Søren Kerndrup.

19.00: Social Event ?


Friday May 5, 9.00-16.00

09.00: Management of projects and agility and lean (NN)                        

Dialogue and discussion

10.45: Participant presentation of PhD or other project and prepared assignment (approx. 10 min presentation + 10 min. discussion).

12.15: Lunch

13.00: Three perspective on managing of projects

- Project management in a socio-material perspective Lone Stub Petersen

- Managing of projects in a sensemaking and practice  perspective, Søren Kerndrup

Coffee break

15.00: Workshop, Lone Stub Petersen, Søren Kerndrup.

16.00: Summing Up: What are the key challenges of managing complex projects and how do we understand them? Lone Stub Petersen og Søren Kerndrup.

Assignments to be prepared for next assembly

16.45: Closing and networking


Preliminary programme for August 23-25

Location: Aalborg University, Nybrogade 6 – lokale 1.133, 9000 Aalborg.

Teachers: Associate Professor Lone Stub Petersen, Associate Professor Søren Kerndrup, Professor Lars Bo Henriksen + ??

Wednesday August 23, 9.00-17.00

09.30: Welcome to the second assembly, coffee

Introduction to teachers and program

10.00: Stakeholder & materialities

Dialogue and discussion

11.30:  Presentation of assignments

12.30: Lunch

13.30: Worldviews and narratives in project managent, Lars Bo Henriksen.

Dialogue and discussion

15.00´: Presentation of assignments

Comments from participants and teachers

17.00: End of day programme          


Thursday 24 August, 9.00-17.00

9.00     Complexity and power – sense making and action net in complex projects,

Christian Clausen

Dialogue and discussion

10.30: Presentation of assignments

Comments from participants and teachers

12.30: Lunch

13.30: Engagement and empowerment of actors, Lone Stub Petersen

Dialogue and discussion                      

15.00: Presentation of assignments

Comments from participants and teachers

17.00: End of day program

19.00: Social event?


Friday August 25., 9.00-15.00

9.00: Design of spaces and games in practice, NN & Lone Stub Petersen

Dialogue and discussion.

10.30: Presentation of assignments.

Comments from participants and teachers

12.00: Lunch

13.00: What are the key lessons? How are complex projects managed?

14.00: Wrapping up.

15.00: End of course.

Key texts and literature.                                          

Management of projects – ambiguities in complex projects

Neil Alderman and Chris Ivory (2016) Dealing with Ambiguity in Complex Projects: Planned or Emergent Practices? In Alfons Van Marrewijk (Ed.) Inside Megaprojects Understanding Cultural Practices in Project Management CBS Press p. 175-209

Bent Flyvbjerg, 2014, "What You Should Know about Megaprojects and Why: An Overview," Project Management Journal, vol. 45, no. 2, April-May, pp. 6-19

Management of Projects Agility and lean.

Scheller et al (2015): Fast or smart? How to the use of scrum can influence the temporal Enviroment. In Pries-Heie, Jan Project Management: Theory Meets Practice. Roskilde Universitetsforlag 2015 p. 39-59.

Beyer, H. (2010). User-centered aile methods. San Rafael, Calif. Morgan & Claypool Publishers. Available also in Kindle form.

The agile manifesto. Retrieved from http://www.agilemanifesto.org

Mangement of projects – Theoretical perspectives:

Söderlund, Jonas (2012): Theoretical Foundation of Project management: Suggestion for a Pluralistic understanding. Chapter 2 in Morris et al. The Oxford Handbook of Projects Management. Oxford University Press s.36-63

Robert Chia( 2013): Paradigms and Perspectives in Organizational Project Management Research: Implications for Knowledge-Creation. In Nathalie Drouin, Ralf Müller, Shankar Sankaran In Novel Approaches to Organizational Project Management Research (E-book). Translational and Transformational. CBS Press p 33-55

Svejvig, Per; Grex, Sara (2016):The Danish Agenda for Rethinking Project Management.

In International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, Vol. 9, Nr. 4, 2016, s. 822-844.

Management of projects – New Theoretical perspectives

Sage, D et al: How Actor-network theories can help understanding project complexities. International Journal of Managing Projects in Business Vol. 4 No. 2, 2011 pp. 274-293

Michael Er, Julien Pollack and Shankar Sankaran (2013): Actor-Network Theory, Activity Theory and Action Research and their Application in Project Management Research. Nathalie Drouin, Ralf Müller, Shankar Sankaran In Novel Approaches to Organizational Project Management Research (E-book). Translational and Transformational. CBS Press p. 165-198

Alderman, N. and Ivory, C. 2011. Translation and convergence in projects: an organisational perspective on project success, Project Management Journal, 42(5): 17-30

Ivory CJ, Alderman N, McLoughlin IP, Vaughan R. Sense making as a process within complex projects. In: Hodgson, D., Svetlana, C, ed. Making Projects Critical. London: Palgrave, 2006, pp.316-334

Hallgren M & Söderholm, A. (2012): Project as practice: A new approach. Chapter 21 in Morris et al. The oxford Handbook of Projects Management. Oxford University Press

Kreiner, Kristian (1995): In search of relevance: Project management in drifting enviroments. Scandinavian Journal of management 11, no 4, s 335-346.

Hällgren, Markus, et al. "Relevance lost! A critical review of project management standardisation." International Journal of Managing Projects in Business 5.3 (2012): 457-485

Managing of projects as story and Narratives.

Henriksen, Lars Bo (2012): The Engineering Project as Story and Narrative. In / Dariusz Jemielniak;ed.

Managing Dynamic Technology-Oriented Business: High Tech Organizations and Workplaces. Abigail Marks. IGI global, 2012. s. 159-170.

Henriksen, Lars Bo Knowledge Work and the Problem of Implementation : The Case of Engineering.  In Dariusz Jemielniak ed. The Laws of the Knowledge Workplace: Changing Roles and the Meaning of Work in Knowledge-Intensive Environments . Gower Publishing Ltd, 2014. s. 35-53.

Management of projects: Knowledge. Learning and Power.

Lindkvist (2012): Knowledge Integration in Product Development Projects: The Contingency Framework. Chapter 19 in Morris et al. The oxford Handbook of Projects Management. Oxford University Press
*Edmondson, Amy C. "Wicked Problem Solvers: Lessons from Successful Cross-industry Teams." Harvard Business Review 94, no. 6 (June 2016): 53–59

Management of Projects: Stakeholder, heteorogenity and relations.

Graham Winch Megaproject Stakeholder Management in Flyvbjerg, B. ed.The Oxford Handbook of megaprojects. Oxford university press 2017

Clegg, Steward et al.: Power and sensemaking i mega projects. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/293047849_Power_and_sensemaking_in_megaprojects

Eskerod, P., Huemann, M., & Savage, G. (2015). Project Stakeholder Management - Past and Present, Project Management Journal, 46(6): 6-14.

Stephanie Missonier & Sabrina Loufrani-Fedida (2015):Stakeholder analysis and engagement in projects: From stakeholder relational perspective to stakeholder relational ontology  International Journal of Project Management 32 (2014) 1108–1122

Tryggestad, Kjell; Justesen, Lise; Mouritsen, Jan / Project Temporalities : How Frogs Can Become Stakeholders. International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, Vol. 6, Nr. 1, 2013

Organizers: Associate Professor Lone Stub Petersen, email: lonep@mail.aau.dk and Associate Professor Søren Kerndrup, email: soeren@plan.aau.dk

Lecturers: Associate Professor Lone Stub Petersen, Associate Professor Søren Kerndrup, Professor Lars Bo Henriksen, Professor Christian Clausen and two external introductory speakers


Time: 4. - 5. May and 23. - 25. August 2017

Place: Aalborg University

Zip code: 9000

City: Aalborg

Number of seats: 20

Deadline: 6. April 2017


Important information concerning PhD courses We have over some time experienced problems with no-show for both project and general courses. It has now reached a point where we are forced to take action. Therefore, the Doctoral School has decided to introduce a no-show fee of DKK 5,000 for each course where the student does not show up. Cancellations are accepted no later than 2 weeks before start of the course. Registered illness is of course an acceptable reason for not showing up on those days. Furthermore, all courses open for registration approximately three months before start. This can hopefully also provide new students a chance to register for courses during the year. We look forward to your registrations.