Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Integrating the change program with the parent organization (Lehtonen & Martinsuo, 2009)

Dienstag, April 28th, 2009


Lehtonen, Päivi; Martinsuo, Miia: Integrating the change program with the parent organization; in: International Journal of Project Management, Vol. 27 (2009), No. 2, pp. 154-165.


Lehtonen & Martinsuo analyse the boundary spanning activities of change programmes.  They find five different types of organisational integration – internal integration 1a) in the programme, 1b) in the organisation; external integration 2a) in the organisation, 2b) in the programme, and 3) between programme and parent organisation.

Furthermore they identify mechanisms of integration on these various levels.  These mechanisms are

  Mechanism of integration
Structure & Control Steering groups, responsibility of line managers
Goal & content link Programme is part of larger strategic change initiative
People links Cross-functional core team, part-time team members who stay in local departments
Scheduling & Planning links Planning, project management, budgeting, reporting
Isolation Abandon standard corporate steering group, split between HQ and branch roll-out


Among most common are four types of boundary spanning activities – (1) Information Scout, (2) Ambassador, (3) Boundary Shaping, and (4) Isolation.  Firstly, information scouting is done via workshops, interviews, questionnaire, data requests &c.  Secondly, the project ambassador presents the programme in internal forums, focuses on quick wins and show cases them, publishes about the project in HR magazines &c.  Thirdly, the boundary shaping is done by negotiations of scope and resources, and by defining responsibilities.  Fourthly, isolation typically takes place through withholding information, establishing a separate work/team/programme culture, planning inside; basically by gate keeping and blocking.   

The PM_BOK Code (Whitty & Schulz, 2006)

Donnerstag, Oktober 23rd, 2008

 The PM_BOK Code (Whitty & Schulz, 2006)

Whitty, S. J.; Schulz, M. F.: The PM_BOK Code; in: The Proceedings of 20th IPMA World Congress on Project Management, Vol. 1 (2008) , pp. 466 – 472.

The bold claim of this article is that project management is more about appearance than productivity.
Whitty & Schulz argue that our hard-wiring for memes and the western culture have turned project management (in it’s special representation in the PMI’s PMBOK) into a travesty.
The western culture is synonymous with the spirit of capitalism combined with the meme of the corporation, which has been disected many times most noteably by Achbar, Abbott & Bakan.

The authors compare the everyday madness of projects to nothing else but theatres. Keeping up appearances. They draw similarities between the theatrical stage – think meeting rooms and offices, costumes – think dark suits or funny t-shirts, scripts – think charts and status reports, props – think powerpoint, and audience – think co-workers and managers. Whitty & Schulz that the big show we put up everyday is to appear in control and successful.

Project management is the ideal way to represent western culture. Being flexible, ready for change, constantly exploiting new opportunities.
On the flip side, the authors argue, that project management kills creativity and democracy. It fractionalises the workforce, thus driving down productivity.

The way out of this predicament is to „reform […] the PMBOK® Guide version of PM in a way that elieves practitioners from performativity, and opens project work up to more creative and democratic processes“ (p. 471).

The balance between order and chaos in multi-project firms: A conceptual model (Geraldi, 2008)

Donnerstag, Oktober 23rd, 2008

 The balance between order and chaos in multi-project firms: A conceptual model (Geraldi, 2008)

Geraldi, Joana G.: The balance between order and chaos in multi-project firms – A conceptual model; in: International Journal of Project Management, Vol. 26 (2008), No. 4, pp. 348-356.

Geraldi takes a deeper look into multi-project settings at the ‚Edge of Chaos‘. Geraldi describes the Edge of Chaos as that fine line between chaos and order. Wikipedia (I know I shouldn’t cite it) has something else to say about the Edge of Chaos:

In the sciences in general, the phrase has come to refer to a metaphor that some physical, biological, economic and social systems operate in a region between order and either complete randomness or chaos, where the complexity is maximal. The generality and significance of the idea, however, has since been called into question by Melanie Mitchell and others. The phrase has also been borrowed by the business community and is sometimes used inappropriately and in contexts that are far from the original scope of the meaning of the term.

Geraldi defines the Edge of Chaos as a match between complexity and flexibility.  Complexity can either be located within faith or facts. Flexibility, on the other hand, is either high or low, whilst it is measured along the dimensions of scope + goals, processes + tools, and roles + staffing. Geraldi argues that only two of these archetypes represent a fit (highlighted below):

Complexity Faith Bureaucratisation of Chaos Creative Reflective
Fact Mechanic-Structured Chaotification of order
Low High

Tailored task forces: Temporary organizations and modularity (Waard & Kramer, 2008)

Montag, Oktober 20th, 2008

Tailored task forces: Temporary organizations and modularity (Waard & Kramer, 2008)

Waard, Erik J. de; Kramer, Eric-Hans: Tailored task forces – Temporary organizations and modularity; in: International Journal of Project Management, Vol. 26 (2008), No. 5, pp. 537-546.

As a colleague once put it: Complex projects should be organised like terrorist organisations – Autonomous cells of highly motivated individuals.

Waard & Kramer do not analyse projects but it’s fast paced and short lived cousin – the task force. The task force is THE blueprint for an temporary organisation. The authors found that the more modularised the parent company is, the easier it is to set-up a task force/temporary organisations. Waard & Kramer also found that the temporary organisations are more stable if set-up by modular parent companies. They explain this with copying readily available organisational design principles and using well excercised behaviours to manage these units.

The more interesting second part of the article describes how a company can best set-up task forces. Waard & Kramer draw their analogy from Modular Design.

„Building a complex system from smaller subsystems that are independently designed yet function together“

The core of modular design is to establish visible design rules and hidden design parameters. The authors describe that rules need to be in place for (1) architecture, (2) interfaces, and (3) standards. The remaining design decisions is left in the hands of the task force, which is run like a black box.
In this case Architecture defines which modules are part of the system and what each modules functionality is. Interface definition lays out how these modules interact and communication. Lastly, the Standards define how modules are tested and how their performance is measured.

Project management approaches for dynamic environments (Collyer, 2009)

Donnerstag, Oktober 9th, 2008

 Project management approaches for dynamic environments (Collyer, in press)Collyer, Simon: Project management approaches for dynamic environments; in: International Journal of Project Management, in press (2008). this article has been published in: International Journal of Project Management, Vol. 27 (2009), No. 4, pp. 355-364. There it is again: Complexity, this time under the name of Dynamic Project Environments. I admit that link is a bit of a stretch. Complexity has been described as situations, where inputs generate surprising outputs. Collyer on the other hand focuses special project management strategies to succeed in changing environments. The author’s example is the IT project, which inherently bears a very special dynamic.He discusses eight different approaches to cope with dynamics. (1) Environment manipulation, which is the attempt to transform a dynamic environment into a static environment. Examples commonly employed are design freezes, extending a systems life time, and leapfrogging or delaying new technology deployment.(2) Planning for dynamic environments. Collyer draws a framework where he classifies projects on two dimensions. Firstly, if their methods are well defined or not, and secondly if the goals are well defined or not. For example he classifies the System Development project as ill-defined and ill-defined. This is a point you could argue about, because some people claim that IT projects usually have well-defined methodologies, but lack clear goals. Collyer suggest scaling down planning. Plan milestones according to project lifecycle stages, and detail when you get there. He recommends spending more time on RACI-matrices than on detailed plans.(3) Control scope, which is quite the obivious thing to try to achieve – Collyer recommends to always cut the project stages along the scope and make the smallest possible scope the first release.(4) Controlled experimentation. The author suggest that experimentation supports sense-making in a dynamic environment. Typical examples for experimentation are prototyping (Collyer recommends to always develop more than one prototype), feasibility studies, and proofs of concept.(5) Lifecycle strategies, although bearing similarities to the scope control approaches he proposes this strategy deals with applying RuP and agile development methods, to accelerate the adaptability of the project in changing environments.(6) Managment control, as discussed earlier in this post every project uses a mix of different control techniques. Collyer suggest deviating from the classical project management approach of controlling behaviour by supervision, in favour for using more input control, for example training to ensure only the best resources are selected. Besides input control Collyer recommend on focussing on output control as well, making output measurable and rewarding performance.Collyer also discusses a second control framework, which distinguishes control by the abstract management principle. Such as diagnostic control (=formal feedback), control of beliefs (=mission, values), control of interactions (=having strategic, data-based discussions), and boundary control (=defining codes of conduct).Lastly the author discusses two more approaches to succeeding with dynamic environments which are (7) Categorisation and adaptation of standards and (8) Leadership style.

Integrating diverse knowledge through boundary spanning processes – The case of multidisciplinary project teams (Ratcheva, in press)

Freitag, Oktober 3rd, 2008

Integrating diverse knowledge through boundary spanning processes – The case of multidisciplinary project teams (Ratcheva, in press)

Ratcheva, Violina: Integrating diverse knowledge through boundary spanning processes – The case of multidisciplinary project teams; in: International Journal of Project Management, in press, corrected proof.

The author argues that diverse, multi-disciplinary teams have knowledge boundaries which make information sharing difficult. An issue even more difficult if the team is geographically separated.

Ratcheva conceptualises the diverse project team as being embedded in the macro environment and organisational environment. The team itself is characterised at its starting point by three factors – (1) interpersonal, interactions & relational capital, (2) knowledge diversity, and (3) establishing workpractice. These three factors influence each other. Starting with this diverse team context or setting the team goes on to integrate it’s knowledge which ultimately leads to a project outcome.

Which knowledge boundaries exist in such a project team? Ratcheva identifies three different knowledge domains and at the edge of these knowledge boundaries. First of all there is the project team, surrounded by it’s projectation boundary, outside this boundary lies the occupational knowledge. Which simply means that each project team member is rooted in a broader knowledge of his profession which goes beyond the boundaries of the current project.
Secondly, the team has contextual knowledge which is confined by the project knowledge boundary. Thirdly, the broader project relevant knowledge lies inside the project’s social boundary.

How does the concept look like in motion? Which boundary spanning activities does the team perform? Ratcheva describes a four step process which combines all knowledge related and boundary spanning activities.

  1. The project core team works on the project, solves problems and issues = understanding occupational knowledge, and realising and spanning the projectation boundary
  2. The team understands the context knowledge, e.g., customer needs, stakeholder requirements = realising and spanning the project knowledge boundary
  3. The team understands  it’s personal diversity, thus understanding which personal knowledge is project relevant knowledge = realising and spanning the project social boundary
  4. The team integrates all knowledge, a knowledge which then feeds back into the first step

The impact of Puritan ideology on aspects of project management (Whitty & Schulz, 2007)

Mittwoch, August 13th, 2008

Puritan Ideology and Project Management

Whitty, Stephen Jonathan; Schulz, Mark Frederick: The impact of Puritan ideology on aspects of project management; in: International Journal of Project Management, Vol. 25 (2007), pp. 10–20.

This paper roots today’s prevalent ethics in Western project management to classical Puritanism. [Max Weber anyone?] Whitty & Schulz see the doctrinal supremacy, work ethic, and depravity of puritanism as a direct predecessor of today’s project management. They argue that the Purtianism descendants of Liberalism, Newtonianism, and Taylorism are another major influence.

The authors conclude with the remark: „Through no fault of their own, scholars and practitioners like are being driven by powerful memes that not only rive their behaviour but create the very fabric of their society. We owe it to ourselves to break free of the tyranny of these Puritan memes. But first, we must acknowledge that our past and present actions have been determined by them.“ (p. 18).

Managing public–private megaprojects: Paradoxes, complexity, and project design (van Marrewijk et al., in press)

Montag, Juli 14th, 2008

Megaproject Culture (1) Megaproject Culture (2)

van Marrewijk, Alfons; Clegg, Stewart R.; Pitsis, Tyrone S.; Veenswijk, Marcel: Managing public–private megaprojects: Paradoxes, complexity, and project design; in: International Journal of Project Management, in press.

Marrewijk et al. compare the project designs, daily practices, project cultures and management approaches in two case studies. The authors explore how actors on these megaprojects make sense of uncertainty, ambiguity and risk. They show that project design and project cultures influence cooperations between key players on the project.

They argue that each project has a specific project culture with subcultures, conflicts, powers, and cultural ambiguity. Thus making the staff of a project a modern tribe distinguishing themselves from the rest of the working world (and the parent corporation) via artifacts, practices, and values. Projects show multiple cultures, power relations, conflicts, and abnormalities just like any larger society. Post-Positivism research has shown the impact of the project culture on project’s success or failure. Unfortunately the authors found that megaprojects have a higher tendency than normal to develop a dysfunctional project culture.

Moreover Marrewijk et al. analyse the cultural strategies of change and the cultural forms, practices, and content themes found in their two megaproject case studies. Finally they outline how culture and project design influence a public-private partnership project. They conclude that there are 2 critical success factors on how to design a project organisation which can create a non-dysfunctional project culture.

  1. Design power relations between all players in the project in a way that balances these
  2. Design accountability in way that is NOT a zero-sum game and which serves the self-interest of all involved parties and individuals