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Article
Publication date: 7 May 2020

Stephen Keith McGrath and Stephen Jonathan Whitty

To determine if there is confusion in governance terminology amongst experienced management and project management practitioners.

Abstract

Purpose

To determine if there is confusion in governance terminology amongst experienced management and project management practitioners.

Design/methodology/approach

Practitioner interviews and subsequent analysis.

Findings

Significant differences in governance terminology were found. The participants had nevertheless arrived at similar operating arrangements for their committees, even though they came from different segments of different industries and did not agree on the definition of governance. It was possible to develop a list of working parameters for operation of these committees from their responses. The labelling of committees associated with governance as steering or decision-making was found to be problematic and various causes/motivations for the differing definitions of governance having arisen were detected. These ranged from altruism, through dogmatic belief in particular frameworks, to enhancing career prospects/ego.

Research limitations/implications

The sample came from organisations and industries in one state in one country. The need for review of governance terminology used in various project management practitioner reference documents and methodologies was identified.

Practical implications

Projects and business alike can potentially achieve improvements in efficiency and effectiveness through consistency of terminology and the clarity this brings to governance arrangements and committee operations.

Social implications

Creation of a unifying feature within the project and management literature, shifting the understanding of governance and its boundaries and limitations. This will help progress governance from complexity to simplicity, from an art to an understandable practice, from a concept that has been hijacked for partisan and political gain to a lean social tool which can be put to use for the benefit of organisations, whether public, charitable or private.

Originality/value

The value is clarity – resulting in the avoidance of confusion and misunderstanding together with their consequent waste of time, resources and money.

Details

International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, vol. 13 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1753-8378

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 22 November 2018

Stephen Keith McGrath and Stephen Jonathan Whitty

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the confusion among project management practitioners about the role of steering committees.

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the confusion among project management practitioners about the role of steering committees.

Design/methodology/approach

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with highly experienced participants selected from a range of industries and disciplines in Queensland, Australia.

Findings

Six separate confusions on the role of steering committees were identified within that practitioner community. However, despite participants expressing various opposing views, they had actually come to the same working arrangements for their committees; all that was missing was a common conceptualisation of these working arrangements and consistent terminology.

Research limitations/implications

The paper provides clear evidence to the academic literature that confusion over the role of steering committees actually exists within the practitioner community and identifies six separate ways in which this occurs. It also identifies a problematic error in the widely used PRINCE2 governance model. Clarity in committee governance arrangements will facilitate future research endeavours through the removal of confusion surrounding committee labelling and accountability.

Practical implications

A committee decision tree model that guards against all six confusions is proposed for practitioner use, providing a means of avoiding unnecessary internal conflict within organisational governance arrangements. It can be used to check terms of reference of existing or proposed committees, facilitating organisational efficiency and effectiveness. The suggested renaming of project control groups to project coordination groups, and discontinuance of the practice of labelling committees that cannot authorise their decisions as either steering committees or boards, further supports this.

Social implications

Reconciliation of terminology with actual practice and the consequent clarity of governance arrangements can facilitate building social and physical systems and infrastructure, benefitting organisations, whether public, charitable or private.

Originality/value

Clarity regarding committee accountability can avoid confusion, misunderstanding and their consequent waste of time, resources and money.

Article
Publication date: 17 April 2018

Stephen Keith McGrath and Stephen Jonathan Whitty

The purpose of this paper is to remove confusion surrounding the terms responsibility and accountability from the general and project management arenas by creating “refined” (with…

4667

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to remove confusion surrounding the terms responsibility and accountability from the general and project management arenas by creating “refined” (with unnecessary elements removed) definitions of these terms.

Design/methodology/approach

A method of deriving refined definitions for a group of terms by ensuring that there is no internal conflict or overlap is adopted and applied to resolve the confusion.

Findings

The confusion between responsibility and accountability can be characterised as a failure to separate the obligation to satisfactorily perform a task (responsibility) from the liability to ensure that it is satisfactorily done (accountability). Furthermore, clarity of application can be achieved if legislative and organisational accountabilities are differentiated and it is recognised that accountability and responsibility transition across organisational levels. A difficulty in applying accountability in RACI tables is also resolved.

Research limitations/implications

Clear definition of responsibility and accountability will facilitate future research endeavours by removing confusion surrounding the terms. Verification of the method used through its success in deriving these “refined” definitions suggests its suitability for application to other contested terms.

Practical implications

Projects and businesses alike can benefit from removal of confusion around the definitions of responsibility and accountability in the academic research they fund and attempt to apply. They can also achieve improvements in both efficiency and effectiveness in undertaking organisation-wide exercises to determine organisational responsibilities and accountabilities as well as in the application of governance models.

Social implications

Refined definitions of responsibility and accountability will facilitate building social and physical systems and infrastructure, benefitting organisations, whether public, charitable or private.

Originality/value

Clarity resulting in the avoidance of confusion and misunderstanding together with their consequent waste of time, resources and money.

Details

International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, vol. 11 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1753-8378

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 5 September 2017

Stephen Keith McGrath and Stephen Jonathan Whitty

The purpose of this paper is to create a “refined” (with unnecessary elements removed) definition of the term stakeholder, thereby removing confusion surrounding the use of this…

14516

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to create a “refined” (with unnecessary elements removed) definition of the term stakeholder, thereby removing confusion surrounding the use of this term from the general and project management arenas.

Design/methodology/approach

A method of deriving refined definitions for a group of terms by ensuring there are no unnecessary elements causing internal conflict or overlap is adopted and applied to resolve the confusion.

Findings

The refined definitions of stake and stakeholder are in terms of an interest and activity. This avoids all extensions of meaning introduced by defining particular types of stakeholders and/ or their degrees of impact. It also resolves the multiplicity of conflicting meanings possible when silent or assumed qualifiers of a word are ignored, restricting definition to, for example, project stakeholders or stakeholders of a firm. These definitions are carried forward into a mapping of the stakeholder locus of interest on an activity rather than a company base, enabling generic categorisation of stakeholders to be proposed for use in both private and public sectors. A governance difficulty with the term customer also emerged and a resolution to this is proposed.

Research limitations/implications

Resolution of the academic contention around the definition of stakeholders will facilitate future research endeavours by removing confusion surrounding the term. It can also provide clarity in governance arrangements in public and private sectors. Verification of the method used through its success in deriving this “refined” definition suggests its suitability for application to other contested terms.

Practical implications

Projects and businesses alike can benefit from removal of confusion around the definition of stakeholder in the academic research they fund and attempt to apply.

Social implications

A refined definition of the stakeholder concept will facilitate building social and physical systems and infrastructure, benefitting organisations, whether public, charitable or private.

Originality/value

Clarity results in the avoidance of confusion and misunderstanding together with their consequent waste of time, resources and money.

Details

International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, vol. 10 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1753-8378

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 1 November 2019

Eric John Darling and Stephen Jonathan Whitty

The purpose of this paper is to examine a case of sham compliance performance reporting through the lens of Goffman’s dramaturgy to reveal its dramaturgical structure. It makes a…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine a case of sham compliance performance reporting through the lens of Goffman’s dramaturgy to reveal its dramaturgical structure. It makes a methodological contribution to comprehending “lived experience” accounts of project work, and adds knowledge concerning the behind-the-scenes motivators to sham behaviour in project work.

Design/methodology/approach

Using an ethnographic lived experience account, an aspect of project work is reconceptualised as a collection of dramaturgical scenes. These scenes disclose issues beyond the bounds of the traditional project management discourse, and increase knowledge and appreciation of sham and performative behaviour in project work.

Findings

Sham progress reporting can emerge in an environment where senior management’s ignorance of project work creates unworkable binds for project staff. Moreover, the sham behaviour succeeds at its objective because senior management are vulnerable to false impressions. This situation raises ethical issues for those involved, and creates an overhead in dealing with the reality of project work.

Research limitations/implications

Limitations to this study are due to the inherent nature of the ethnographic method, where it is difficult to recruit willing participants, particularly in terms of sham behaviour cases. This study has implications for research on sham and performativity behaviour in project work, as studies can benefit from the dramaturgical analysis and Goffmanesque scene illustration techniques that help give focus to particular aspects of social performance, and remove complexity from the narrative.

Practical implications

The research provides practitioners with a way of discussing superfluous compliance process using additional lived experience vocabulary. This could reduce the undue pressure to behave unethically, and reduce the burden to create the extra impression management work.

Originality/value

This study brings a voice to sham behaviour in project work. Continued ignorance of sham behaviour results in unnecessary work and unprofitable projects. Individuals could pay a price in terms of stress and well-being, not discussed.

Details

International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, vol. 14 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1753-8378

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 5 September 2017

Gregory Usher and Stephen Jonathan Whitty

The purpose of this paper is to expand project management theory about practice and theory for practice through a new conceptual model developed from the transformational…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to expand project management theory about practice and theory for practice through a new conceptual model developed from the transformational production management, strategic management and complexity bodies of theory.

Design/methodology/approach

This research uses a grounded theory methodology. A preliminary model is developed and tested against two case studies. The model is revised and tested using a purposively selected focus group before being presented in this paper.

Findings

The research indicates that the “final state convergence model” which has been synthesized from the transformational production management, strategic management and complexity theories. The model illuminates the complexities that can exist within the practice of project management.

Research limitations/implications

The final state convergence model provides a novel approach to synthesizing new bodies of theory into traditional project management theory.

Practical implications

The model challenges practitioners to think beyond their current conceptual base of traditional project management methodologies, systems, and processes toward a broader conceptualization of project management.

Originality/value

The research adds to the theory about practice and theory for practice through the development of a new model which not only illuminates the complexities of project management but enriches and extends the understanding of the actual reality of projects and project management practices.

Details

International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, vol. 10 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1753-8378

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 17 July 2019

Eric John Darling and Stephen Jonathan Whitty

The purpose of this paper is to describe the relationship between project work and stress. It examines how the conditions of project work negatively impact on an individual’s…

1256

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to describe the relationship between project work and stress. It examines how the conditions of project work negatively impact on an individual’s mental and physical state of well-being, consequentially reducing organisational performance.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors systematically review the project management literature for sources of stress or stressors as it relates to Cooper and Marshall’s (1976) model of stress at work. The authors perform a thematic analysis on these stressors to reveal the “sub-stressor” conditions of project work.

Findings

A “model of projects as a source of stress at work” is developed. It shows the relationship between the sub-stressors of project work and the ill effects they have on mental and physical well-being of the project workforce.

Research limitations/implications

The findings of this study are constrained by the limits of a literature review process. This study has implications for research on stress in project work, as studies can benefit from the “model of projects as a source of stress at work”, which can be continually advanced to gain insights on the minimisation of physical and mental distress.

Practical implications

Many sectors including health, education, policing, aviation and military provide scenario-based training. In project management, a greater understanding of stressful scenarios and counter measures would improve health outcomes for project staff, human relations and project outcomes.

Originality/value

The study presents a comprehensive model of projects as a source of stress at work. It draws attention to the burden and cost of anxiety and stress placed on the project workforce. It makes the case for organisations and employees to take responsibility for the well-being of project staff.

Details

International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, vol. 13 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1753-8378

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 4 January 2017

Bronte van der Hoorn and Stephen Jonathan Whitty

The purpose of this paper is to propose the project-space model as positively influencing sensemaking in the project context. There is currently minimal discussion of the tools…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to propose the project-space model as positively influencing sensemaking in the project context. There is currently minimal discussion of the tools used by project managers, teams and stakeholders to build their map of the project terrain or to make sense of a project’s status. However, such sensemaking is critical to ongoing decision making and aligning action in any project.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper uses framework analysis to examine the results of a completed action research case study that utilised a tool: the project-space model. Three frameworks are then utilised as an investigative lens to examine how the project-space model influenced sensemaking.

Findings

The project-space model is found to enhance sensemaking within the case study. Specifically, its visual nature, the focus it brings to the plurality of experience and the need for plausibility rather than precision in understanding.

Research limitations/implications

The findings are based on a single case study. Further studies could be undertaken to confirm extensibility.

Practical implications

The project-space model is identified as having a favourable impact on sensemaking in the case study project. There is a need to consider what other tools are currently used or could be used by project teams to enhance sensemaking.

Originality/value

Empirical, contextualised case study research highlighting the value of the project-space model as a sensemaking tool. Contribution to evidence on the efficacy of the project-space model as a useful tool for project managers.

Details

International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, vol. 10 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1753-8378

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 21 June 2011

Stephen Jonathan Whitty

The purpose of this paper is to present an overview of a completed doctoral thesis that focuses on the application of evolutionary theory to various aspects of project management.

2714

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to present an overview of a completed doctoral thesis that focuses on the application of evolutionary theory to various aspects of project management.

Design/methodology/approach

Generally speaking the methods of research are founded on the epistemological framework of co‐evolution which regards human values, preferences, artefacts, and behaviours as evolutionary adaptations in the same way one would regard bipedal walking. A conceptual evolutionary (memetic) framework is developed to explore the prevalence of project management concepts, practices, and artefacts in a Darwinian manner.

Findings

The findings of this thesis can be summarised by saying; that we are hardwired for project management as our behaviours and artefacts are encoded across our biology and our culture; that some are drawn to aspects of project management because they get an emotional fix from it; that modern project management is not founded on evidence‐based practices, rather it has evolved the way it has for reasons other than that it leads to successful project delivery; that aspects of modern project management reflect the morals and values of our largely Judaeo‐Christian culture; and that the various concepts, practices, and artefacts of project management are loaded with local meanings which are selected and passed on to others.

Practical implications

This thesis makes a contribution to the field by developing a new philosophy of project management that is concerned with raising questions, with the assistance of an evolutionary framework, about how one should consider projects and project management, why various concepts, practices and artefacts are more prevalent than others, what are their essential natures and how they are being adapted, and how we might go about progressing project management into the future.

Originality/value

This thesis proposes and advances an evolutionary framework for project management research.

Details

International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, vol. 4 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1753-8378

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 7 September 2015

Stephen Keith McGrath and Stephen Jonathan Whitty

The purpose of this paper is to resolve and remove from the governance arena in general and the project arena in particular, conflict which occurs when parties do not realise they…

2800

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to resolve and remove from the governance arena in general and the project arena in particular, conflict which occurs when parties do not realise they have different meanings for common governance terms.

Design/methodology/approach

Review literature on definitional confusion in general and on governance in particular and develop a method for defining an internally consistent group of terms, then apply this to a group of terms in the governance arena.

Findings

Several important subjects commonly arranged under the governance banner do not actually constitute governance (strategy, behaviour, decision making).

Research limitations/implications

Further work is necessary to remove similar confusion in other closely related areas, including power itself and authority as well as project and general management terms such as responsibility and accountability.

Practical implications

Projects and business alike can potentially achieve significant improvements in efficiency and effectiveness through gaining consistency across current models, frameworks, policies and procedures thus reducing cross-boundary conflict.

Social implications

Creation of a unifying feature within the project and management literature, shifting the understanding of the boundaries and limitations of governance. These definitions will help progress governance from complexity to simplicity, from an art to an understandable practice, from a concept that has been hijacked for partisan and political gain to a lean social tool which can be put to use for the benefit of organisations, whether public, charitable or private.

Originality/value

The value is clarity – resulting in the avoidance of confusion and misunderstanding together with their consequent waste of time, resources and money.

Details

International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, vol. 8 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1753-8378

Keywords

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