The changing paradigms of project management (Pollack, 2007)

Changing Paradigm

Pollack, Julien: The changing paradigms of project management; in: International Journal of Project Management, Vol. 25 (2007), No. 3., pp. 266-247.

This article is closely related to the 2006 article by Atkinson et al., which are all based on the hard-soft-framework first published in

Crawford, Lynn; Pollack, Julien: Hard and soft projects – a framework for analysis, in: International Journal of Project Management, Vol. 22 (2004), No. 8, pp. 645-653.

In this article Pollack analyses project management literature in order to identify paradigms associated with project management research. He uses the concept of the paradigm as defined by Kuhn in 1962 as a „commonly shared set of assumptions, values and concepts within a community, which constitutes a way of viewing reality. Individuals within the community may embody these assumptions in different ways, and so paradigm is used in his context to refer to a general tendency for thought“ (Pollack 2007, p. 266).

Pollack then describes the hard and soft paradigm he helped establishing with research on best practice organisational change projects. The hard paradigm is characterised by

  • Predefined project goals
  • Positivist and Realist philosophies
  • Emphasis on control
  • Quantitative measures
  • Reductionist techniques
  • Emphasis on structure
  • No need for participation
  • Project Manager as Expert

Whereas the soft paradigm is characterised by

  • Ill-defined and ambiguous goals
  • Qualitative measures
  • Emphasis on learning
  • Need for participation
  • Interpretivist philosophies
  • Emphasis on social processes
  • Project Manager as Facilitator

Furthermore Pollack argues that most of the current research is deeply rooted in the hard paradigm, although the literature on the soft paradigm is growing significantly. He then argues that a paradigmatic expansion could provide increased opportunity for practitioners and researchers. Since choosing a paradigm automatically defines certain assumptions for the research and thus limiting it. Nevertheless he points out that neither one perspective is appropriate to all situations.

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