The main project complexity factors affecting Brazilian defence projects and the competencies and strategies used to manage them

  • Leandro Bolzan De Rezende

Student thesis: Phd


With the world's ninth largest economy and comprising nearly 60% of South America's GDP, 47% of its territory, and 49% of its population, Brazil has become a regional power and an important actor in world affairs over recent decades. This scenario has led the Brazilian government to re-evaluate its role in the world order. Consequently, a series of defence projects were developed to deliver this transformation, with project complexity being one of the main issues relating to its successful delivery. Thus, the aim of this thesis was to investigate what project complexity factors and project management competencies make defence projects difficult or easier to manage in the Brazilian Army? The research question was addressed by conducting a bibliometric analysis, followed by two systematic reviews, and a semi-structured interview with people involved in defence projects in the Brazilian Army. The bibliometric analysis found that the project complexity research field focused on topics related to keywords such as model, performance, system, uncertainty, framework, design, innovation, and organisation. Moreover, the intellectual base findings suggested that project complexity is defined by seven dimensions: structural, uncertainty, novelty, dynamics, pace, social political, and institutional complexity. The research trends highlighted an interest in frameworks, and so a Project Complexity Framework was developed with all seven project complexity dimensions and 72 project complexity factors identified in the literature. Alongside it, a Project Management Competency Framework was developed based on 81 competencies identified in the literature, organising them into 11 dimensions: influencing, communication, emotional, contextual, management, cognitive skills, professionalism, knowledge and experience, project management knowledge, and personal skills and attributes. Based on the semi-structured interviews, four new project complexity factors were found in the defence projects context: number or variety of environments, personalism, contractor and suppliers speed, and scope novelty, while 18 of the 76 factors were identified as the main sources of project complexity within defence projects. Similarly, as well as the 81 project management competencies identified in the literature, people involved in defence projects need to know about product life cycle management and have power and authority as a personal attribute. Of the 83 competencies identified, 27 were considered important to manage complex defence projects. As a result, based on the project complexity factors and on the project management competencies correlated with each factor, some strategies were defined to reduce project complexity within defence projects and to strengthen the capacity of teams and organisations to cope with project complexity within defence projects. Thus, the main contribution to knowledge lies in mapping the project complexity research field, developing comprehensive project complexity and project management competency frameworks, tailoring the frameworks to the defence context, identifying specific context factors and competencies, identifying where project complexity affects defence projects, and identifying the strategies to use in order to manage project complexity within defence projects.
Date of Award1 Aug 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorMoray Kidd (Supervisor) & Paul Blackwell (Supervisor)


  • programme
  • project
  • Brazil
  • project complexity
  • competency
  • project management
  • defence

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