Walker, D. (2014), "Editorial", International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, Vol. 7 No. 4. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJMPB-06-2014-0056Download as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, Volume 7, Issue 4
About this issue
This final issue for 2014, Volume 7 contains a special issue of three papers on ethics in project management plus six regular papers, four related research notes and a thesis research note. At 14 papers in all, this rounds off the year on a solid intellectual note.
In one sense, this issue links two important aspects of project success. Success from a technical and business perspective is well understood though how that success may be identified and achieved is still a fertile area of research. The issue of ethics and project delivery is an entirely new stream of PM research that receives scant attention in much of the PM literature today despite being of pivotal importance to all project stakeholders be they direct project participants or interested bystanders. The first nine papers that focus on ethics in PM and various perspectives on project success present a coherent body of original research literature to contribute to a field of PM that has attracted a lot of attention over the past decade or two.
The special issue on ethics in project management
This section begins with an editorial by guest editor Ralf Müller who provides an introduction to the three papers accepted for the SI part of this issue. There is a dearth of papers related to ethics in PM even though the PM discipline should maintain a strong and enduring interest in ethics to encourage project managers to deliver value in a more holistically manner that is consistent with being a member of a profession. Much of the relationship between project managers and their stakeholders relies on trust and integrity. Three papers were accepted for the SI after a rigorous review process and it is hoped that this SI part will trigger more submissions on this important PM topic in future issues of this and other PM journals.
This issue presents six additional regular papers to the SI on ethics in PM. Each of these papers deals with very different aspects of the concept of project success.
Paper 4, entitled “Indicators of best practices in technology product development projects: prioritizing critical success factors” is co-authored by Supachart Iamratanakul, Yuosre F. Badir, Sununta Siengthai and Vatcharapol Sukhotu, from the Asian Institute of Technology – School of Management that is located in Thailand. They report on a study that aims to rank the importance of critical success factors (CSFs) for best practices in technology product development in the Thailand electronics industry and to determine the relationships between these factors in terms of their impact on project success. They identified 14 “driving” and “dependent” factors, which were then classified into four factor categories: linkage, autonomous, dependent, or independent factors. This research contributes to the field of project management by identifying the relative importance of the CSFs which enhance the management of technology projects. Despite the abundance of studies on CSFs, their importance has still not been fully explained. Their findings provide insights into the degree of importance of the factors and their interdependencies, which can either drive or undermine project success. In addition, the interpretive structural modelling methodology they used is a unique approach in the project management field. The study was set within a Thai context and so it provides insights into a part of the world that is underrepresented in the PM literature.
Paper 5 addresses an interesting question. This paper is entitled “When do megaprojects start and finish? redefining project lead time for megaproject success” and it presents an interesting and novel perspective on time success. The lead author Carlos Eduardo Yamasaki Sato is based in Sussex University at the Science and Technology Policy Research (SPRU) and is co-authored with Milton de Freitas Chagas Jr of the Instituto Tecnológico de Aeronáutica, São José dos Campos, São Paulo Brazil. Their paper redefines the concept of Project Lead Time to encompass the time between the project initial idea and the moment in which success is being assessed, which can be beyond the project close-out, using whatever criteria is appropriate for the stakeholder at that moment in time. The conventional project life cycle does not count for the long-term effects of the megaproject, which can have a significant impact on its perception of success. Thus the megaproject life cycle should include a significant part of the operational life cycle of the end product or result, and the criteria of success should include the long-term benefits of the project (measured along various years after the delivery of the end product or result). They use three illustrative cases of megaprojects: Airbus A380, London Heathrow Terminal 5, and London Olympic Games 2012. These megaprojects, despite their problems in achieving objectives of time, cost and quality, can be viewed as success or failure depending on the performance and benefits of the resulting product/infrastructure analysed over a long period of time after its delivery. They argue that when assessing the success of the megaproject it is important to define the project lead time under which success is being assessed.
Paper 6 entitled “understanding project success through analysis of project management approach” provides a mainly Norwegian perspective of project success. Co-authors Asbjørn Rolstadås, Iris Tommelein, and Per Morten Schiefloe are from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim and their co-author Glenn Ballard is from the University of California, Berkeley, USA. They demonstrate that project success is dependent on the selected project management approach, relative to the challenges posed by the project, and they develop an analytical model for analysing the performance of the project organisation from that perspective. They define two different approaches in project management: the prescriptive approach focuses on the formal qualities of the project organisation, including governing documentation and procedures. The adaptive approach focuses on the process of developing and improving a project organisation, project culture and team commitment. The two approaches have been identified through studies of three different case projects. Their analytical model, referred to as the Pentagon Model, was applied for analysing the performance of the project organisation and explaining the project management approach. The model focuses on five different organisational aspects: structure, technologies, culture, social relations and networks, and interaction. This introduces a richer concept of success than the iron triangle measures and it provides a useful model that can be used to better understand how the PM approach can influence project outcomes.
Paper 7 also comes to us from Trondheim, Norway and is related to how to design-in a process to have a better chance of achieving project success. The paper is entitled “The need for a project governance body” and is co-authored by Hallgrim Hjelmbrekke, Ola Lædre, and Jardar Lohne. They argue that from a project owner's perspective, it is obvious that a project shall contribute to achieving the organisation's strategic goals. Given that position they find out what project owners can do to ensure value creation in their projects, what owners actually do in the few cases in which they are actively involved in ensuring value creation and what is the result of their choice. They analysed 12 projects in the Norwegian construction industry using a qualitative approach and applied a general business framework for understanding projects to identify possible shortcomings and success factors. Their study reveals an absence of project strategy, resulting in projects which achieve strategic goals only to a minor extent. This lack of strategic perspective in project management is also recognised by the research literature as a common tendency. The originality of their paper lies in introducing insights from business literature to the construction industry. They argue that the owner defines the benefits the project is to provide through the value proposition while the customer value proposition is the statement where the supplier aligns the proposed project output with the project owner's needs. They maintain that project governance body is responsible for ensuring this communication process and they provide several useful models and visualisation tools to visualise links between the project sponsor and the governance structure.
Paper 8 has a further link to the previous cluster of papers. It also comes from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim and has linked to project success through a study of identifying and responding to early warning signs of trouble in project delivery. It is entitles “Efficiency of project health checks (PHCs) as an early warning system in practice: a case study in Norway's telecommunication industry” and is co-authored by Sara Haji-Kazemi and Bjorn Andersen. The paper presents an overview on the concept of early warning signs in projects. It then briefly introduces a project health check tool and evaluate to the level of efficiency of this tool as a source of data for an early warning approach signalling that a project is about to experience problems in the future. Identifying and dealing with early warning signs is an important part of averting potential project failure. Results from this paper show that the application of project health check tools can to a certain extent contribute to identification of early warning signs in projects but that the level of effectiveness of the project health check as an early warning system is dependent on several factors such as level of complexity of the project, average experience of project managers, etc. The empirical studies reveal that there is definitely potential for enhancement of the tool in order to improve its utilisation as an early warning system.
Judgement of project success or failure can be said to exist in “the mind of the beholder” and that relates to what may be considered as the value proposition. The process of linking the initiator of a project with experts that can help deliver that value lies at the core of project success or failure. Paper 9 addresses this issue and is entitled “Promoters in a matrix organization's social network during industrial project sales”. It is co-authored by Harri Ryynänen, from the University of Eastern Finland and Risto T. Salminen from Lappeenranta University of Technology, Finland. The paper aims to increase understanding about the key persons (promoters) in project business organisations and the authors argue that by doing this, the managers may enhance the communication flow by connecting the experts and the executives more efficiently. Using an in-depth single case study in which the case represents a typical industrial project sales process. The case is analysed through content analysis and social network analysis that offers a structured and rigorous method of analysing social networks. Findings indicate that during project sales there may be numerous process promoters with the dual roles of power and process promoter. In addition, this study demonstrated the appearance of process promoters in the project supplier's social network. The findings of this study contribute to the literature on the role of promoters by especially focusing on process promoters during project sales. There appears to be a dearth of studies that relate to the early phases of project sales, despite the fact that these phases have a substantial impact on subsequent phases. This study presents a rare example of an empirical study of promoters within a project business organisation's social network.
Research note papers
This issue contains four very special research notes. Before I introduce them I will provide some context to them.
I am often asked by early career colleagues, as an academic and scholar having enjoyed a quarter of a century experience in this role, how they should get started on the often long journey of getting research published and building the vital network of collaborators and colleagues needed in this global age of connected scholarship. The process of gaining a foothold in the career ladder (where “publish or perish” is a universal mantra for most if not all universities around the world) is a matter of real and urgent concern to early career academics as well as those who have perhaps drifted in and out of actively getting their research work published. Most senior academics I know are inundated with tasks to occupy their time including being asked to review papers in journals such as IJMPiB or conference papers or research grant applications! Making time to be a mentor can be very challenging. Given this rising workload, how are freshly minted PhD holders and aspiring scholars going to get their first break? What kind of mentoring and nurturing model should be encouraged by universities to grow the next crop of scholars that will fulfill the needs of a knowledge-hungry global world? The next four papers identify one model that has organically arisen from Northern Sweden. The papers centre on the influence and impact that a senior academic who is very humble and unassuming but who has mentored and supported a number of emerging stars in the project organising and PM field. The papers reflect the appreciation that often goes unspoken and is rarely “counted” as demonstrating research impact. These papers can therefore celebrate the many quiet and effective mentors who routinely and selflessly mentor others and provide the shoulders that other scholars stand upon.
I was delighted when I was provided an opportunity to include these four papers that may help early career scholars in two important ways. First, the papers may help early career academics understand how they may influence shaping similar opportunities within their own academic context by citing these papers as exemplars and offering them as useful stories that may be emulated. Second, these papers may remind many of us of our good fortune to have met a genuine and generous sponsor and mentor in the past who has brought out the best in us. These papers may serve as a useful prompt to establish similar support mechanisms in situations where this important infrastructure facility is missing. The stories told in these papers are not unique. I was lucky, for example, to be inspired by my master degree dissertation supervisor and mentor when I was 30 and over a decade later he was my PhD advisor. I know of many senior academic colleagues who have been likewise inspired and supported.
The first of the research notes is written by Rolf A. Lundin who has also been an active and supportive mentor and well respected for his support of early career academics. His paper is entitled “A tribute to Timothy L. Wilson: the professor, the mentor, the person and his accomplishments”. This paper, like the others, is not merely a tribute to a valued colleague but explains (from a senior academic's perspective) the value of a mentor and how the mentorship evolved as part of a friendship relation, but the story has also implications for how mentoring can be developed as a personal strategy. The second research note entitled “Learning the ropes: muddling through with Tim Wilson” is written by Thommie Burström now resident in Helsinki but gained his first academic foothold in Umeå, Sweden. This paper reflects how the concept of “muddling through” which is an insightful idea that Lindblom (1959, 1979) introduced as decision making strategy. Using this concept introduced to Thommie Burström by Tim Wilson, the approach is shown how it can achieve valuable career outcomes. Thommie Burström provides a useful perspective of the mentee. The third paper in this series was written by another mentee, Peter Zackariasson, simply entitled “Mentorship in academia”. Peter Zackariasson was another of Tim Wilson's colleagues early on in Umeå, Sweden and is now at the University of Gothenburg; School of Business, Economics and Law, Sweden. He argues and demonstrates that the practice of good mentorship can be instrumental for the success of young academics and how it can even be crucial for an academic career, which otherwise risks ending up in just a load of ideas and unfinished manuscripts. The final of the four papers in this set takes a slightly different perspective. This paper written by Mattias Jacobsson and Markus Hällgren, who are both mentees of Tim Wilson at Umeå, Sweden and both successfully writing high-quality papers and winning research grants. The paper is entitled “The grabber: making a first impression the Wilsonian way”. This paper explains an important lesson learned by the authors when working with Tim Wilson in choosing a topic, a perspective and communicating and focusing idea. It illustrates how the mentor's influence shaped the authors’ career and provides us with some useful research paper writing advice.
When IJMPiB was first published in 2008 it sought to include research notes that provided stimulating ideas for researchers and we all hoped to include through these some unconventional forms of research writing that may have a positive impact and influence. This cluster of four papers will hopefully inspire some early career readers to shape their career through finding an inspiring and practically helpful mentor and that it may remind those of us who have benefited from a good mentor to aspire to deliver that often unacknowledged but vital role and to mentor others and hopefully be as successful as Tim Wilson has been.
Thesis research note papers
The final paper in this issue, through serendipity, fits the theme set by the research notes. The thesis research note entitled “Metaphor as a means to constructively influence behavioural interactions in project teams” reports on a recent PhD research thesis completed by the author Arthur Shelley and his co-author Tayyab Maqsood from RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia provides a supervisor's perspective on that journey. The paper summarises and outlines Shelley's PhD thesis and research journey from being a global knowledge-management practitioner with a multinational manufacturing and marketing company to a PhD candidate. In line with the above research notes, Arthur Shelley was (and still is) a skilled mentor. His knowledge management and organisational learning “past life” led him to take a life-change decision and test out some of his hunches through undertaking a full time PhD about the usefulness of taking a behavioural perspective of organisations and to weave in a way of understanding behaviours using an animal metaphor lens. This idea is of course not new but the way that Shelley developed it and the tools and means to understand behaviour in organisations has produced some very interesting results when viewed from a project team “design” and “management” perspective. One of the metaphorical creatures he identifies in his “organisational zoo” was the owl who is a mentor figure so the link between this thesis research note and the previous research notes seems to fit nicely.
Lindblom, C.E. (1959), “The science of ″muddling through″”, Public Administration Review, Vol. 19 No. 2, pp. 79-88
Lindblom, C.E. (1979), “Still muddling, not yet through”, Public Administration Review, Vol. 39 No. 6, pp. 517-526