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Understanding project manager identities: a framework for research

Charles Smith (Charles Smith Consulting, Knutsford, UK)

International Journal of Managing Projects in Business

ISSN: 1753-8378

Article publication date: 13 September 2011




The purpose of the paper is to propose a framework for researching the possibilities for project manager identities: the multiple ways there are of being a performer, as a manager, in the world of projects.


The author's line of enquiry was to seek evidence of project manager identity within real‐life stories told by practitioners, the author's perspective being: that identity is produced through action, that action and identity are framed by social narratives, and that identities and the strategies that create and support them are therefore evident in project stories.


Two examples are discussed; they validate the proposed research framework, demonstrating how storytellers use their projects as vehicles for the performance of their personal professional “project manager identity”.

Research limitations/implications

The form of the stories is crucial to what their analysis can reveal about identities. The personal stories (narrating the storyteller's own experience) must be, in essence, complete, told by individuals addressing situations that challenge them.

Social implications

The primary purpose of this research is to inform personal learning and educational programmes. An enriched understanding of what it means to be a professional in the project world can enhance the awareness of individuals learning to perform roles, and making choices in this field.


The analysis of stories has been used previously as a research methodology to critique projects and power structures. This paper makes proposals to extend the use of such analysis into the realm of personal identity and its construction.



Smith, C. (2011), "Understanding project manager identities: a framework for research", International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, Vol. 4 No. 4, pp. 680-696.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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