Complex Project Management: Matching Organisational Problems and Project Management Methodologies

Costantini, Silvana (2021). Complex Project Management: Matching Organisational Problems and Project Management Methodologies. PhD thesis The Open University.



Organisations must adapt to their changing business environment to remain profitable, competitive and able to meet their strategic goals, with projects often the instruments used to do so. A project is a temporary endeavour aimed at creating a unique product or service, or at meeting a specific strategic objective, with Project Management (PM) the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to reach such an outcome. These are usually combined in specific PM methodologies, which may have a profound impact on project success. With organisational problems of increasing complexity and volatility, there is a growing recognition that better PM methodologies should be developed to deal with these characteristics, and that PM should be seen as a form of complex problem solving. This has led to an increase in hybrid PM approaches, with practitioners attempting to reap the benefits of combining the discipline of predictive PM methodologies with the flexibility of adaptive ones. However, both deep insights into such practices and methodological support for hybridisation are still lacking.

This context drives our research, whose overall aim is to investigate the relation between organisational problem characteristics and parametrisation of PM practices, and to establish the extent an existing problem solving framework, Problem Oriented Engineering (POE), with roots in design and engineering, may provide the heoretical and methodological basis for project parametrisation and more systematic hybridisation. We take a mixed method approach, including both secondary and primary research. Specifically, we conduct a literature analysis and a practitioner survey to propose a fine grain mapping between volatility and complexity dimensions of organisational problems and risk controls in predictive and adaptive PM methodologies, as a first step towards the systematisation of hybrid combinations in projects. Simultaneously, we develop our interpretation of PM processes and practices within the POE framework. Finally, by drawing our findings together, we propose a systematic approach for the parametrisation of PM processes in the face of complexity and volatility with the objective to better mitigate the risks arising from them, which we test and validate in two case studies. The outcomes of our research contribute both to knowledge and practice: we provide both an extension and novel application of POE to the PM discipline, and a systematic approach to project parametrisation, which may support project managers in their daily practice.

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