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Toward an approach to create self‐organizing and reflexive information systems project practitioners

Kosheek Sewchurran (Department of Information Systems, University of Cape Town, South Africa

International Journal of Managing Projects in Business

ISSN: 1753-8378

Article publication date: 20 June 2008




The primary purpose of this paper is to present an alternative approach to educate information systems project practitioners. An alternative to the prescriptive, model based, instrumental approaches is sought. The alternative approach presented in this paper focuses largely on imparting a discourse to equip students with an understanding of how communication occurs, how competences are acquired, and how to understand the influences of power and agency on themselves and others in a typical information systems project context.


A conceptual approach is followed. First, Heidegger's ideas are used to demonstrate the flaws inherent in assumptions that claim we interact in project management contexts in rational, and instrumental ways. Second, the paper argues that Cockburn's concepts, which are traditionally used as a theoretical lens to understand agile software development practices, are a good approximate to Heidegger's concepts to impart reflexive learning skills. Finally, the concept of a discourse is used to package the instrumental tools, reflexive learning skills and related concepts to understand communication, and the acquisition of competence.


There are many parallels that can be drawn between the dilemmas, which face the project management community, and the ideological debates about agile versus monolithic approaches, for which the software development community is infamous. Additionally, Heidegger's motivation for defining the fundamental ontology of dasein is similar to the motivation given by the research community to understand actual project experiences.

Research limitations/implications

This approach has only been tried at one institution thus far; hence, there are only two semesters of teaching experiences at one institution on which to reflect.

Practical implications

The paper advances the dilemma related to project practitioner education to a point where action can be taken. Educators can use the ideas presented in this paper to revive undergraduate project management education programs both in information systems and other disciplines.


The original value is two‐fold. First, there is a presentation of an alternative approach to educate information systems project practitioners that holds the promise of making the experience more true to life; thereby, rendering the experience more fulfilling for the practitioner. Second, the paper uses Heidegger's fundamental ontology to show the consequence of imparting the ideals of instrumentality rationality in a true to life manner. This discussion highlights some of the effects contemporary educational approaches have on retarding competence and competency development.



Sewchurran, K. (2008), "Toward an approach to create self‐organizing and reflexive information systems project practitioners", International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, Vol. 1 No. 3, pp. 316-333.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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