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Reinventing the role of the project manager in mobilising knowledge in construction

Nicola Kelly (University College London, London, UK)
Andrew John Edkins (University College London, London, UK)
Hedley Smyth (University College London, London, UK)
Efrosyni Konstantinou (University College London, London, UK)

International Journal of Managing Projects in Business

ISSN: 1753-8378

Article publication date: 6 September 2013

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine how the more tacit dimension of knowledge is shared in projects in a construction contracting organisation and whether explicit organisational knowledge management initiatives can help resolve and better manage project‐based challenges.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper is based on a single in‐depth case study and uses a combination of qualitative and quantitative research methods.

Findings

The findings demonstrate how the more tacit dimension of knowledge is fundamentally important to resolving project‐based challenges, such as adjusting the detail of or re‐sequencing tasks, that major contractors frequently face. Even though a number of organisational initiatives were in place, knowledge was most successfully mobilised due to project managers, who competently orchestrate a number of inter‐ and intra‐organisational relationships amongst a host of stakeholders who are relevant to the delivery of projects.

Research limitations/implications

The research is limited to a single organisation. It is exploratory resulting in interpretive reflection upon the largely qualitative data, alongside simple statistical descriptions.

Practical implications

The practical implications are that construction contractors and other similar players should better understand and consider the significance of agents who are central to the effective use and flow of knowledge.

Originality/value

The paper confirms the limited usefulness of knowledge management initiatives, and points to the pivotal role of the project manager as latent knowledge managers. The originality is the lack of awareness amongst senior management as to the critical role project managers undertake in marshalling tacit knowledge. This is reinforced by the project managers who themselves are only partly aware of the impact of their knowledge management role. Their emergent, almost instinctive, management of knowledge supports project performance and questions whether further management intervention would be useful for the practitioner and the delivery of client value.

Keywords

Citation

Kelly, N., Edkins, A.J., Smyth, H. and Konstantinou, E. (2013), "Reinventing the role of the project manager in mobilising knowledge in construction", International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, Vol. 6 No. 4, pp. 654-673. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJMPB-12-2011-0080

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited