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Projects, Paradigms and Predictability

Project-Based Organizing and Strategic Management

ISBN: 978-1-78052-192-3, eISBN: 978-1-78052-193-0

ISSN: 0742-3322

Publication date: 12 October 2011


This chapter compares and contrasts the diverse theoretical foundations of two paradigms in strategic project management. The first, older paradigm, draws on foundational ideas about nature (i.e., it is predictable) and human rationality (strategy and implementation are distinct) to conceptualize project management in terms of controlling predictable project processes and their inherent risks, so that project managers can optimize the trade-offs between timing, cost and quality. The second practice-based alternative paradigm conceptualizes people as sources of deterministic behavior in an otherwise often unpredictable world. Projects are key tools that are used to strategically create this predictable behavior, with project plans being used as scaffolding to help co-ordinate the distributed behavior of systemically connected people in space and time as the project proceeds. The chapter highlights how this second paradigm has a more robust scientific basis, shows how it informed the development of the Heathrow T5 project, and draws implications of for future theory and practice.


Nightingale, P. and Brady, T. (2011), "Projects, Paradigms and Predictability", Cattani, G., Ferriani, S., Frederiksen, L. and Täube, F. (Ed.) Project-Based Organizing and Strategic Management (Advances in Strategic Management, Vol. 28), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 83-112.



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