productivity tips · May 18, 2021

Strategic Thinking, Project Complexity, and How Project Management Software Helps

Strategic planning

Strategic thinking is all about looking at where you are, where you want to go, how you’re going to get there and what it will look like when you arrive. And it’s knowing the answer to all these questions before you start.

Trying to manage a project on the fly is terribly inefficient and ineffective. By using strategic thinking to talk project complexity you will drastically increase your chances of completing successful projects time and time again.

When it comes to project complexity, it is best not to think about it as a two-dimensional puzzle. Rather, project complexity is a three-dimensional puzzle that can be successfully solved with strategic thinking.

The three-dimensional complexity is:

  1. Sociopolitical complexity
  2. Emergent complexity
  3. Structural complexity

Breaking the complexity of a project down into these three sections helps to prevent one of the biggest reasons many projects fail: underestimating the project’s scope.

Once the project’s complexities are understood then it is simpler to use project management software to ensure the end goal lines up with the strategy vision.

In fact, project management can help manage some of the complexities, and in some cases, help to avoid some of these complexities from becoming too big a problem.

Read more on what work management software is and why your team needs one.

Dealing with project complexities

We often talk about project complexity as though it is one thing. But in reality, it would be more accurate to say project complexities. Because no one really asks: is a project complex or not? That question horribly oversimplifies what is a multi-layered issue.

If people ask it’s usually around a specific aspect of a project.

The 3 complexities involved in any project

Project complexity is better thought of as three-dimensional. And the three types of complexity are, sociopolitical, structural, and emergent.

Project Complexity

1. Sociopolitical complexity

The sociopolitical complexity of a project refers to how important a project is the grand scheme of things. That is the people in a team can have different agendas which causes the sociopolitical complexity.

2. Emergent complexity

Emergent complexity, and indeed structural complexity, are much more tangible than sociopolitical complexity. To the point where it is possible some organizations either do not experience sociopolitical complexity or are unaware it is even happening.

A good example of sociopolitical complexity is someone in Upper Management promising someone that a project will be pushed to the head of the queue, without first consulting the project manager to see if it is possible.

Emergent complexity is simply acknowledging the possibility change as well as the unforeseen. After all, you may be working on a project with a new type of process or technology. And so, it will take time to adapt.

This can affect timelines. But not just the timelines of that particular project, it can consequences for other projects in the queue too.

Emergency complexity can something like a lack of information or lack of experience, or a deadline gets pushed forward. A combination of these things can contribute to the emergent complexity.

3. Structural complexity

We have all experienced structural complexity. And, indeed, it is the one that is so often referred to as a project’s complexity.

It has to do with the breadth of scope, size, variety, deadlines, level of team work and interdependence, and so on.

The pace of a project—that is, how long it has to be completed—is often recognized as one of the biggest challenges of managing a project.

Once upon a time, these complexities were difficult to deal with. Nowadays, there are many different types of software out there designed specifically to help strategically manage these types of project complexities.

Even the sociopolitical complexities can be managed using the latest project management software tools.

Strategic planning

5 ways project management software helps with strategic thinking

Strategy is all in the planning. It is having the big picture view of what is going on in your organization, recognizing causal relationships and patterns, as well as being able to align ideas with your strategic objective.

And strategic thinking can be thought of as having the answers to 4 questions:

  1. Where do you want to be?
  2. Where are you, right now?
  3. How are you going to get to where you want to be?
  4. How will you know when you have arrived?

While these questions seem rather easy to answer, they do require a fair amount of data. And knowing the big picture.

Sometimes it is hard to keep an eye on the big picture while ensuring individual projects are carried out properly and team members are completing their work on time. There are a lot of aspects to juggle.

This is where project management software becomes such a huge help in managing project complexities.

1. Helps organize opportunities, projects, and ideas

When strategies are being defined and ideas are generated, they can become genuine opportunities, and then become actual projects.

Project management software also helps prioritize projects and opportunities to ensure all work is completed in the right way and the correct order. Which increases efficiencies and helps to ensure work is completed on time and to spec.

2. Helps with visual thinking

Gant charts and Kanban boards are great tools to help team members visual what needs to be done; by who, and when.

This is just one of the ways project management software helps teams visualize their plans and goals. Another thinking that project management does so well is enables teams to communicate effectively with each other without resorting to a third-party messaging service.

Doing everything in the project management software means communications are not lost or forgotten.

3. Short-range action plans are easier to manage

Every project has short-term and long-term goals. With the right software it is never been easier to track who has to do what and by when.

For example: when ‘team member A’ finishes their work, ‘team member B’ starts their part.

More than that, managers can see all the projects to get a better understanding of how much work is being done. The advantage to this it is easier to see how many more projects can be taken on, and when.

4. Helps validate plans within the organizational constraints

No strategy will be successful if it does not have a realistic and actionable plan. It is necessary at the beginning to estimate time and cost, but a project management software can help take some of the guess work out.

Putting a project into the software, adding due dates and who would do the work will help to validate any time or cost-based assumptions as well as confirm that the estimated plan is realistic and actionable.

By using project management software, you can create a realistic model of what possible considering your team’s existing workload and resources.

5. Supports modeling and what-if analysis

Often there is more than one project in the works. So, how do you know the overall impact of deferring the start date of particular project? And what happens is someone in Upper Management wants a project pushed to the front of the queue?

This is why putting data into project management software is so important. Being able to see due dates, required resources, and required team members will help you to see and manage any possible constraints, delays, or other similar impacts.

With this information you are able to then adjust accordingly.

Project management software is far more than just another tool to help you organize your projects. The right software will provide meaningful information and insight to initiate, monitor, execute, and make better decisions with your strategic projects.

Project management software and how to align the goal with a strategic vision

Going back to those four questions:

  1. Where do you want to be?
  2. Where are you, right now?
  3. How are you going to get to where you want to be?
  4. How will you know when you have arrived?

And keeping in mind how project management software helps with strategic thinking, it’s not difficult to see how it can help align the goal with a strategic vision.

Project management software

The four questions are how project management software works. You can:

  • Assign milestones and objectives
  • Start assigning tasks and nested tasks to team members;
  • Use visual boards to let people know they need to get certain tasks done by certain dates so others can start on their work.
  • Create deadlines for tasks and the project as a whole.

Strategic thinking can help to solve a lot of problems before they become problems. By carefully planning ahead and using the latest project management software to organize, map out, and manage a project, you can better align each project’s goal with your strategic vision.

So, if you’re looking to reduce project complexity; Quire could be the answer you’re looking for. Let us know in the comment section or tweet us at @quire_io about how you get the best out of Quire.

Quire Marketing Team
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