Measurement of Complexity in Large Complex Projects



By Bob Prieto

Jupiter, Florida

In the realm of project management, the measurement of complexity in large complex projects (LCPs) presents a significant challenge yet is essential for successful execution. Traditional measures of project complexity may fall short in capturing the intricate interdependencies, uncertainties, and dynamic nature of LCPs. However, a new perspective emerges from the world of quantum physics and relativistic theory, offering analogies that shed light on the behaviors observed in LCP performance.

This paper delves into the concept of Quantum Project Management[1], which draws inspiration from quantum and relativistic theories to redefine how we perceive and manage complexity in large complex projects. By exploring quantum analogies such as entanglement entropy, quantum circuit complexity, computational complexity, and quantum complexity classes, this document aims to provide project managers with a fresh lens through which to view and navigate the complexities of LCPs.

This paper explores the application of quantum concepts to LCPs, highlighting the interconnected nature of project elements, uncertainties, and emergent properties. By leveraging quantum analogies, project managers can gain valuable insights into the intricate relationships within LCPs and develop strategies to enhance project performance, adaptability, and innovation.

Join us on a journey through the quantum realm of project management as we explore the parallels between quantum phenomena and the complexities of large complex projects, paving the way for a new understanding of project management in the modern era.

Key points laid out in this paper include:

  • Quantum analogies, such as entanglement entropy and quantum circuit complexity, offer a new perspective on understanding the interconnected nature of large complex projects (LCPs) and the challenges posed by uncertainties and emergent properties
  • Computational complexity measures and quantum complexity classes provide tools for assessing and managing the computational resources and interdependencies within LCPs, enabling project managers to make informed decisions in the face of uncertainty
  • Quantum concepts like Quantum Fisher Information and Quantum Kolmogorov Complexity offer insights into the fragility of project plans and the intrinsic complexity of LCPs, leading to more adaptive and resilient project management strategies
  • Quantum Project Management introduces new strategic decision-making approaches for LCPs, emphasizing the interconnectedness of project components, the nature of complexity classes, and the importance of modularization and precedence minimization
  • By leveraging quantum analogies and measurement approaches, project managers can enhance their ability to navigate the complexities of LCPs, drive innovation, and achieve successful project outcomes in an ever-evolving landscape of large complex projects

Measuring Complexity

Measuring complexity in large complex projects today is challenging and necessary yet the range of measures explored may be self-limiting based on a more classical perspective of projects as bounded and decomposable. The author’s recent paper on Quantum Project Management opens the aperture on consideration of the management of large complex projects (LCP). This paper draws by analogy from the world of relativistic theory (scale) and quantum theory (complexity) to describe the behaviors we observe in LCP performance and in the process open our thinking with respect to the limitations of classical project management theory.

This paper looks more closely at the measurement of complexity as described in “Quantum Project Management – Complex and Entangled” (6 of 10 in a series)[2] where three measurement approaches are described, and those descriptions are not repeated here:

  • Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP)
  • Project Complexity and Risk Assessment Model (PCAM)

Specifically, complexity measurement in the context of quantum systems will be considered in this paper as an analog for complexity in LCP.

Complexity & Entanglement

In the realm of quantum physics, the analog for complexity is often described in terms of quantum entanglement and the intricate relationships between quantum particles. Complexity in quantum systems arises from the entangled states where the properties of one particle become interdependent with those of another, leading to a highly interconnected and nuanced structure. This complexity is challenging to describe classically and contributes to the unique behaviors observed at the quantum level.


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How to cite this paper: Prieto, R. (2024). Measurement of Complexity in Large Complex Projects, PM World Journal, Vol. XII, Issue IV, April. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2024/04/pmwj140-Apr2024-Prieto-Measurement-of-Complexity-in-Large-Complex-Projects.pdf

About the Author

Bob Prieto

Chairman & CEO
Strategic Program Management LLC
Jupiter, Florida, USA


Bob Prieto is Chairman & CEO of Strategic Program Management LLC focused on strengthening engineering and construction organizations and improving capital efficiency in large capital construction programs. Previously Bob was a senior vice president of Fluor focused on the development, delivery and turnaround of large, complex projects worldwide across the firm’s business lines, and Chairman of Parsons Brinckerhoff.

Bob’s board level experience includes Parsons Brinckerhoff (Chairman); Cardno (ASX listed; Non-executive director); Mott MacDonald (Independent Member of the Shareholders Committe); and Dar al Riyadh Group (current)

Bob consults with owners of large, complex capital asset programs in the development of programmatic delivery strategies encompassing planning, engineering, procurement, construction, financing, and enterprise asset management. He has assisted engineering and construction organizations improve their strategy and execution and has served as an executive coach to a new CEO. He is author of nine books, 950 papers and National Academy of Construction Executive Insights, and an inventor on 4 issued patents.

Bob’s industry involvement includes ASCE Industry Leaders Council, National Academy of Construction and Fellow of the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA). He serves on the New York University Abu Dhabi Engineering International Advisory Council and previously served as a trustee of Polytechnic University and the Millennium Challenge Corporation Advisory Board. He was appointed as an honorary global advisor for the PM World Journal and Library.

Bob served until 2006 as one of three U.S. presidential appointees to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Advisory Council (ABAC). He chaired the World Economic Forum’s Engineering & Construction Governors and co-chaired the infrastructure task force in New York after 9/11.  He can be contacted at rpstrategic@comcast.net.

[1]  Prieto, R. (2024). Quantum Project Management, PM World Journal, Vol. XII, Issue I, January 2024. https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/pmwj137-Jan2024-Prieto-Quantum-Project-Management-.pdf

[2] (PDF) Quantum Project Management – Complex and Entangled (researchgate.net)