Managing projects in business




Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to reveal how management of uncertainty can enable sustainability of complex projects.


Design/methodology/approach – The research was conducted from June 2014 to May 2015 using a qualitative deductive approach among operation and maintenance actors in offshore wind farms. The research contains a focus group interview with 11 companies, 20 individual interviews and a seminar presenting preliminary findings with 60 participants.


Findings – The findings reveal the need for management of uncertainty through two different paths. First, project management needs to frontload important issues, which results in the need to use resources much earlier than noted in the usual stage gate approach. Additionally, the base organisation needs the capacity to both explore and exploit important issues. In the summarisation of findings, a tool is developed for the two paths to join efforts.


Research limitations/implications – Further research is needed to reveal the generalisability of the findings in other complex project contexts containing “unknown unknowns”.


Practical implications – The research leads to the development of a tool for uncertainty management for sustainability of complex projects, which is termed “UMSCoPS”. The model provides a guide for insight and understanding of uncertainty management.


Originality/value – The previous knowledge on managing uncertainty for sustainability of complex projects is enhanced regarding the uncertainty management in complex projects. The approach to uncertainty has returned to the original notion of the “unknown unknowns”, and project management thereby leaves the widely used stage gate approach. The developed tool provides a fresh understanding of the challenges of uncertainty.


Keywords: Project management, Uncertainty, Complex projects, Ambidextrous organization, Exploration and exploitation, Frontload.


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