Leading Complex Projects

An adaptable approach to deliver stronger outcomes in changing conditions
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When it comes to complex projects, unexpected challenges and changing timelines are typical. Great project leaders embrace this complexity—they don’t try to control it. They understand that people—the team and stakeholders—are key to successful project outcomes. In this course, you’ll learn how to guide others through the inevitable ups and downs of complex projects by balancing logic and intuition, finding what motivates and engages each of your team members, and establishing a shared point of view to gain alignment.


Note: This course is meant to enhance the existing processes you use. It will not teach you traditional project management tactics.

Course Outcomes
  • Define the problem you’re tackling using techniques that open up different paths towards a solution.
  • Motivate the team to deliver stronger outcomes by developing a shared understanding and clearly defined purpose for the work.
  • Surface, develop, and tap into your intuition and the team’s intuition to make decisions when there is too much or too little information.
  • Design moments of alignment using different frameworks and activities to get buy-in from the team and key stakeholders.
Course Themes
Project Leadership Purpose Decision Making
Format Online Cohort Course
Start Date
Quantity
Duration 5 Weeks
Time 4 Hours/Week
Price
Regular price
$599
Sale price
$599
Unit price
per 
Download Syllabus

What You'll Learn

Week 1: Introduction - Explore Complexity

Understand the unique mindset and behavior shifts needed to successfully lead a complex project, and how this course will help you build a flexible and adaptable project leadership toolkit.
Watch a sneak peek
  • Leading Complex Projects — A sneak peek of the course
1 Video Lesson
  • Complex Project Leadership — Guiding both the work and the team

1 Meditation
  • Develop Awareness of Your Intuition: In this meditation, you will explore the associations you have to intuition and start to cultivate your intuitive abilities through focused attention and awareness.

1 Assignment
  • Visualize a Complex Project: When you see or hear the words “complex project”, visualize what comes to mind and describe what it means to you.

1 Discussion
  • The Feeling of Complexity: Recall a time when things got complex on a project you were working on. How did it make you feel?

Week 2: Enable Outcomes

Create the conditions for stronger outcomes to emerge by developing a clear purpose for the work and activating the intrinsic motivation of individuals.
5 Video Lessons
  • Articulate the Why — Defining the purpose of the project
  • Mentor Moment — The importance of naming the project
  • The Power of Simplicity — Guiding principles and their benefits
  • Leading Through Generosity — Strategies for motivating others
  • The Project of Self — Becoming a more self-aware project leader
1 Assignment
  • Craft Your Project Purpose Statement: In this assignment, we’ll guide you through the steps to understand and define your project’s underlying need, intended audience, and desired impact, and synthesize them into a simple and concise statement of purpose.

5 Discussions
  • The Importance of Purpose: Think back to a personal or professional project where you assumed you knew the purpose but later learned that your assumption may have been off the mark. What impact did this have on you and the outcomes of the work?
  • The Name Game: What surprises you about Shuya’s opinion on naming projects, and what feels most helpful about the tips she’s shared?
  • Guiding Principles: If you already use some form of guiding principles in your work, what impact did they have on a past or present project? If you don't currently use them, what opportunities do you have for crafting guiding principles, either individually or collectively?
  • Emotional Triggers: What was the last strong emotion that surfaced for you at work? Describe the circumstances and the behaviors you adopted in response. How might you react to this same situation or emotion in the future?
  • A Personal Connection: When was a time someone identified a personal passion or interest in you and created an opportunity for you to connect that with your work? What impact did it have on you and the outcomes of the work?

Week 3: Design Alignment

Move the project forward by integrating individual perspectives into collective understanding and shared meaning.
4 Video Lessons
  • A Systems View — Mapping and visualizing the project network
  • Mentor Moment — Understanding different mental models
  • Collective Communication Techniques — Building a shared understanding
  • From Obstacle to Advantage — Tips for utilizing disagreement
1 Assignment
  • Map the Project System: In this assignment, you will create a systems map of your project that visualizes each stakeholder and the exchanges of information between them. You will use this map to spot opportunities to improve or repair alignment.

4 Discussions
  • Aligning Stakeholders: Think about a project you worked on that involved a lot of stakeholders with different perspectives. How did you try to create alignment and bring people along?
  • Mental Models That Differ from Our Own When we encounter a mental model that differs from ours, often our natural reaction is to assume the other person is wrong or misinformed. How do you commonly respond to a different mental model, and how would you like to respond differently going forward?
  • Collective Knowing: We’ve shared a few ways to create collective knowing through group communication. Choose one technique you’ve used before. How did it go?
  • Separate the Person from the Behavior: We have a tendency to label behaviors, but when we label someone as a naysayer, we communicate and assume that they are always that way. We see it as a situation of them versus us. Reflect on a time when you were the dissenting voice or you wanted to be, but couldn’t share your thoughts. How did that feel? How were others helpful to you or harmful in that moment?

Week 4: Leverage Intuition

Find direction and take action when there is too much or too little information by balancing rational and intuitive thinking.
3 Video Lessons
  • Beyond Reason — The value of intuition in complex situations
  • Sensing Opportunities — Strategies for surfacing intuition
  • Got a Hunch, Now What? — Methods for testing your intuition
1 Meditation
  • Investigate Your Intuition: In this meditation, you will explore your reactions and responses around an intuition to determine if what you are experiencing is a genuine intuition or a bias, assumption, or strong emotion.

1 Assignment
  • Analyze Your Intuition: Our intuitions can be a valuable source of information when we need to make decisions, solve problems, or foresee conditions. In this assignment, you will practice surfacing and analyzing your intuitions to identify patterns and insights.

3 Discussions
  • Intuition In Your Own Words: What is intuition to you? Have you ever had an intuition that turned out to be right? Describe what happened and what you learned from the experience.
  • Welcome Intuition: Look across the seven strategies for surfacing intuition. Have you tried one of them before? What was the challenge you were facing and the result of using this strategy?
  • When Intuition Misleads: Think about a time when you acted on an intuition without thinking—and your intuition led you astray. Was there an underlying assumption, emotion, or bias that clouded your judgment? What happened and what did you learn from the experience?

Week 5: Conclusion - Build Resilience

Use the mindsets, behaviors, and tools for navigating complex situations in projects and apply them to other areas of your life.
2 Video Lessons
  • Beyond the Project — How genuine relationships elevate outcomes
  • The Most Complex Project of All — Applying lessons from projects to everyday life
1 Assignment
  • Make a Plan: Reflect on what you have learned about yourself as a project leader along this journey, and make a plan for how you will continue to apply the mindsets and tools for leading complex projects.

2 Discussions
  • Relationships and Resilience: Nothing builds our resilience more than relationships. How do you personally foster meaningful relationships with people in your projects?
  • Life Lessons: Recall a time when you faced uncertainty in your own life outside of work. How did you navigate the situation and what was the outcome?

Meet Your Instructors

Katie Soven

Senior Portfolio Director at IDEO

Trained as an architect, Katie understands that a systems approach to problem solving can be applied to complex problems and situations. Her work at IDEO includes innovating with clients across the retail, hospitality, automotive, civic, and financial service spaces. She is passionate about the future of work and supporting organizations on their transformation journey by creating jobs that are fulfilling, rewarding, and sustainable.

Katie received a master’s degree in Architecture from Harvard University and a bachelor’s degree in Architecture from the University of Florida.

More About Katie

Dwayne Edwards

Senior Portfolio Director at IDEO

As a former intelligence officer in the United States Marine Corps, Dwayne empowers organizations to navigate complexity and engage with people in real and lasting ways that support business and society. This can look like new products, services, or capabilities designed for human needs. Before joining IDEO, he worked as a product manager at Volvo Cars of North America where he helped develop Volvo’s subscription model and built stronger relationships between retailers and customers.

Dwayne received his MBA from the Yale School of Management, a master’s degree in Criminal Law and Procedure from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Law from Binghamton University.

More About Dwayne

Collaborate with a Global Community

Loved by Learners Across the Globe

Michèle Robinson
Michèle Head of Product Braindate
Jessica Weiland
Jessica Project/Process Manager Royal Canin
Kiah Shapiro
Kiah Chief of Staff Luci Creative
Jessie Lueck
Jessie Senior L&D Partner Hallmark
Leading Complex Projects
Cohort Course

“I was blown away from the diversity of instructional methods used. I absolutely loved the workbook and accompanying content. The activities and assignments were so well designed for pushing me to learn new things in a way that felt approachable despite requiring deep thought and perspective shifts.”

Michèle Montreal, Canada
Leading Complex Projects
Cohort Course

“I really enjoyed this course. A lot of times you take trainings that you can't really bring back to your company and implement. This is the first course within my 13.5 year career that was 100% relatable to my company.”

Jessica St. Louis, MO
Leading Complex Projects
Cohort Course

“I found this course extremely helpful in getting foundational ideas about leadership into my mind, behavior, and vernacular. The insight I gained in the first IDEO U course I took are with me today 3 years later. Ensuring you have the time and bandwidth to focus on learning is critical to the success of these courses.”

Kiah Chicago, IL
Leading Complex Projects
Cohort Course

“The lessons are fresh and robust with tangible ways to apply the lessons to your everyday. The content doesn't feel like the same stuffy lessons you find elsewhere.”

Jessie Missoula, MT

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