Building Excellence in Complex Projects and Programs

Apply the SPL principles to your complex project or program and create value for your company and customers. Learn to balance complexity, uncertainty, and innovation, while leading a large team with energy and inspiration.


In this course you will learn to build the standards of strategic excellence in your programs from day one. You will learn how to apply the principles of Strategic Project Leadership® to your program for the creation of value for customers and competitive advantage for your company. And you will learn how to move from a traditional management role into an active leadership role in your program, as well as leverage the right level of innovation in your program.

40 PDUs
PMI Talent Triangle Share of PDUs:
Business Leadership Technical
16 14 10

Course Concepts

  • Strategic Leadership – The basic principle is that leaders, not just managers make the difference, by taking total responsibility for the business results of their programs. You must therefore move beyond the traditional focus on process only, and address the strategic, operational, and leadership parts in your program.
  • Addressing Complexity – This concept is based on the realization that “one size does not fit all.” Program leaders must know how to identify the uniqueness of their program and adapt their leadership style to the specific levels of innovation, complexity and uncertainty.
  • Strategic Value - Second, each program must develop its own program strategy, which will support the strategic direction of its higher enterprise, and focus its on-going tasks on creating value, competitive advantage, and achieving long-term strategic goals.
  • Systems Approach – Third, the course will also introduce the concepts of management in large systems and show how to integrate the technical and engineering aspects of large systems with long-term enterprise goals. 
  • Leadership - The course will address the leadership aspects at the higher levels of programs and help participants realize their potential as leaders and individuals.
  • Building Program Excellence – Finally, based on the aerospace industry model of program excellence, the course will integrate the elements of the model into a working framework for continuous learning and on-going improvement of program leadership.

Major Topics

  • Program Leadership - the CEO Concept of Total Responsibility
  • Why “One Size Does Not Fit All”
  • Strategic Thinking at the Program Level
  • Value Creation Beyond Meeting Time and Budget Goals
  • Building Your Program Strategic Plan
  • Defining and Building Competitive Advantage
  • Developing Leadership at the Program Level
  • Vision, Spirit, and Program Culture
  • The “Diamond of Innovation” - Adapting Your Style to Program Type
  • Program Organization and Processes
  • Integrating Engineering and Management
  • Handling the Program Processes
  • Working with Government Customers
  • Realizing Your Potential as Leader and Individual
  • Building Program Excellence – Continuous Learning and Improvement

Detailed Course Outline


1. Introduction – The Project Leader Responsibility

  • Traditional project management advantage and weakness
  • Why projects don’t make it? Cases: Boeing 787, Q Phone, Segway
  • The story of great projects – What’s missing in “The Book”
  • Turning the art of project management into science
  • Case – Ford Taurus
  • The project leader’s responsibility – Project’s Chief Executive
  • Toward a new definition of a project and program – outcome, not output
  • First introduction to Strategic Project Leadership®

 2. The Complexity of Complex Projects

  • What is complexity
  • What is a complex project
  • Complexity dimensions for different project types
  • Complexity in aerospace
  • Cases – Boeing 787, International Space Station, F-35
  • Exercise – Identify your project’s complexity

 3. A New Model for Project and Program Success

  • Sydney Opera House, LA Subway stories
  • Project success Model – The five dimensions
  • Success dimensions for different project types
  • Success dimensions in aerospace
  • Case – New area code
  • Effectiveness versus efficiency in project management
  • Individual cases: - Each one has his/her story
  • Exercise - Project and product definition

 4. The SPL Planning Framework

  • Why project managers complain about lack of power
  • The project leader assets – “make the power”
  • The powerful missing link in most plans
  • The elements of an SPL plan for complex projects
  • Exercise – Redefine your project and product
  • Why you need to adapt your management style

 5. The Business-Focus Approach – Strategy of Complex Projects

  • What is strategy?
  • The project strategy model
  • Cases - Nokia, iPhone, Apple Watch, Apple Pay
  • Strategic idea – Basis for differentiation
  • Building competitive advantage
  • The competitive map tool
  • Strategic focus for complex projects
  • Case - Formula One
  • Exercise – define your project strategy

 6. Building Project Spirit – The Fun Part

  • How to better engage people? – It’s your job
  • How leaders inspire people and create the right culture
  • Four building blocks of spirit – your “leadership tools”
  • The project’s vision and motto
  • The project’s unique values
  • The project’s symbols
  • The social activity
  • Cases – BMW, Intel, NASA
  • Exercise – Building your project spirit

 7. Project Organization

  • The need to organize, the spectrum of organizations
  • Advantages and disadvantages of organizational structures
  • The benefits and difficulties of the matrix - how to make it work
  • Case – 2012 London Olympic Village
  • The reorganization principle
  • The technical review team

 8. Integrating Innovation and Project Management

  • Expect change - Why you need a flexible approach
  • Why one size does not fit all
  • Project uncertainty, complexity, and pace
  • The difference between uncertainty, complexity and risk
  • The “Diamond of Innovation” Model – What’s unique in your project
  • Review Boeing 787, Y2K, iPod, Tata Nano cases
  • Your “Project Profile” - How to adapt your style
  • Exercise – Classify and adapt your project
  • Retrospective Case - Space Shuttle

 9. Managing Projects, Programs, and Portfolio

  • The difference between projects, programs and portfolio
  • How projects differ; how programs differ
  • Money-making projects or money-saving projects
  • Review all project types
  • Case – project selection model
  • Strategic portfolio management
  • The specific criteria to project groups

 10. Apollo 11 - Demonstrating Strategic Project Leadership®

  • From plan to crisis – The Blitz Project
  • The Diamond of Innovation
  • The focused leader
  • The strategy, and strategic focus
  • The spirit – “failure is not an option”
  • The four leadership roles
  • What different leaders did

 11. Integrating The Strategic Approach in Complex Projects

  • The 12 principles of SPL
  • The SPL Diamond Guide Tool
  • The integrated SPL Plan tool
  • The competitive map tool
  • The project SPL maturity tool assessment
  • Aerospace Program Excellence Assessment Model