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The importance of soft skills in complex projects

Syed Azim (School of MACE, The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)
Andy Gale (School of MACE, The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)
Therese Lawlor‐Wright (School of MACE, The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)
Richard Kirkham (School of MACE, The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)
Ali Khan (School of MACE, The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)
Mehmood Alam (School of MACE, The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)

International Journal of Managing Projects in Business

ISSN: 1753-8378

Article publication date: 22 June 2010

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to facilitate further understanding of project complexity by highlighting the factors contributing to project complexity as reported by the practitioners facing the “actuality” of projects.

Design/methodology/approach

A qualitative research approach was undertaken by conducting semi‐structured interviews with the primary focus on the aerospace industry. Participants are involved in a variety of project settings, exhibiting different types and levels of complexity.

Findings

Analysis of responses highlights “people” issues as the main factor contributing to project complexity and the importance of soft skills in managing complex projects.

Research limitations/implications

The research is based on a limited number of respondents from the aerospace sector. This will be further refined and improved upon by compiling views of additional practitioners involved in multiple aerospace projects.

Practical implications

The main research conclusions are that “hard” project management skills help to organise, plan and manage, and track changes during the course of the project. However, understanding of project complexity and its contributing factors helps practitioners to understand the dynamic, social and complex contexts of projects, thus highlighting the importance of “soft” skills.

Originality/value

This paper proposes the “project complexity triangle – people, product and process”, highlighting their importance as the three major areas contributing to project complexity.

Keywords

Citation

Azim, S., Gale, A., Lawlor‐Wright, T., Kirkham, R., Khan, A. and Alam, M. (2010), "The importance of soft skills in complex projects", International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, Vol. 3 No. 3, pp. 387-401. https://doi.org/10.1108/17538371011056048

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited