Conceptual and empirical investigation into a project management supportive organization culture

Morrison, John Myburgh (2005-12)

Thesis (PhD (Business Management))--University of Stellenbosch, 2005.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Projects inevitably appear on the agenda of organizations, especially those enterprises that are serious about surviving in a competitive and rapidly changing business environment. They have little say in whether they want to do projects, but they have the choice whether to take a project management approach, or whether to leave projects to their functional departments to carry out as part of their routine work. Growing numbers of organizations opt for project management, because they seek specific benefits such as the ability to accomplish targets under conditions of execution uncertainty and the ability to function across specialist disciplines. Too many organizations find their project management performance disappointing and, despite substantial investments in appropriate systems and training, do not attain the benefits claimed by project management advocates. In response, project management researchers have increasingly speculated about the likely influence of organizational culture in the frustrating experiences organizations have with project management. The reasoning behind this supposition appears sound. Most organizations attempting project management still have cultures shaped by a functionally dominated era of organization. Organizational cultures are only gradually breaking out of management traditions that emphasized principles such as high levels of structure and formalization, defined positions of authority, single channels of reporting, and minimal communication other than directions from management downwards. The philosophy of project management differs. Beneath the scientific and methodological facade of project management, there exists a set of attendant leadership and behavioural patterns that have become equally crucial to its performance, for example: high levels of communication; autonomy for project managers; supportive and participative leadership styles; participants that accept reporting to more than one superior; and the emphasis on collective performance. One can add to this list, but these demonstrate the substantial differences that exist between a project management approach and the traditional approaches to managing work and controlling staff. These differences have provoked project management authors to recognize the influence of organizational culture and to offer suggestions about the nature of a project management supportive organizational culture. This study accepts this notion and postulates that organizations, despite mastering the more obvious methodologies of project management, may have negative cultural circumstances that fail to master the underlying management philosophies that support successful project management behaviour. A consolidated definition of organizational culture, which could discriminate between supportive and unsupportive environments for project management, has however remained elusive in the project management literature. The expected relationship between organizational culture and project management has specifically been linked to project management in a matrix organization. In this environment, since there is an ongoing interaction between vertically managed (functional specialization) and horizontally managed (cross-functional) activity, the interdependency between project management and the organizational culture is likely to be strong. The purpose of this study was to: (a) develop, through a comprehensive literature study, a framework of organizational culture dimensions that could be expected to impact on the effectiveness of project management; and (b) to seek, through empirical examination, confirmation about this relationship between organizational culture and project management. The study developed a multi-dimensional and multiple constituent perspective of project management performance as a measure of project management effectiveness in the empirical research. The research found a statistically significant correlation between the hypothesized framework of organizational culture and project management effectiveness. This finding provides strong evidence to deduct that organizational culture and project management are interrelated and that organizational culture is an underlying variable that cannot be ignored when establishing a project management capability. The research further found statistically significant correlations between each of the twelve individual dimensions of organizational culture and project management effectiveness. The study has therefore also substantially progressed towards a framework that can assess the degree of supportiveness of the organizational culture in respect of project management. This should be a valuable tool for organizations struggling with unexplained problems in project management, or for organizations wanting to set up a project management capability.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Projekte verskyn onvermydelik op die aksielys van organisasies, veral by die ondernemings wat hul voortbestaan in ‘n mededingende en snel veranderende sake-omgewing ernstig benader. Organisasies se keuse lê nie daarin of hulle projekte wil doen nie, maar tussen die toepassing van die beginsels van projekbestuur, of die toevertrou van projekte aan funksionele departmente om dit binne die bestek van hul bedryfsfunksies uit te voer. Baie organisasies kies projekbestuur omdat hulle spesifieke voordele soos die vermoë om doelwitte onder ‘n hoë mate van taakonsekerheid na te jaag, en om trans-funksionele werk te bestuur, verlang. Te veel organisasies vind hul pogings tot projekbestuur teleurstellend en, ten spyte van ‘n substansiële belegging in stelsels en opleiding, ontwyk die tipiese voordele waarop aanspraak gemaak word, hulle. In antwoord hierop skryf navorsers in projekbestuur toenemend oor die moontlikheid dat sekere tipes organisasie-kultuur verband hou met die frustrasies wat organisasies met projekbestuur ondervind. Die onderliggende redenasies agter so ‘n afleiding blyk gesond te wees. Meeste organisasies wat tans projekbestuur aanpak, handhaaf steeds kulture wat in ‘n funksioneel georiënteerde tydperk van organisasie gevorm is. Organisasie-kulture wikkel hulle tans geleidelik los uit bestuurstradisies wat op beginsels van gestruktureerdheid, geformaliseerdheid, rigiede definisies van rolle en gesag, eenduidige kanale van rapportering, en minimale kommunikasie anders as opdraggewing van bestuur na laer vlakke, klem gelê het. Projekbestuur verskil hiervan. Benede die wetenskaplike en metodologiese fasade van projekbestuur bestaan daar ‘n stel van gepaardgaande leierskaps- en gedragspatrone wat ewe noodsaaklik vir die suksesvolle prestasie van projekbestuur geword het, byvoorbeeld: hoë vlakke van kommunikasie; outonomie vir projekbestuurders; ondersteunende en deelnemende leierskapstyle; spanlede wat meervoudige gesagslyne kan aanvaar; en die belangrikheid van spanprestasie. Die lys kan nog uitgebrei word, maar hierdie illustreer die betekenisvolle verskille wat tussen ‘n projekbestuursaanslag, en tradisionele benaderings tot die bestuur van werk en die beheer van personeel, bestaan. Hierdie verskille dwing outeurs in projekbestuur reeds geruime tyd om begrip vir die invloed van organisasie-kultuur te toon, en ook om bepaalde voorstelle oor die aard van ‘n ondersteunende kultuur vir projekbestuur aan die hand te doen. Die studie gebruik hierdie denke as vertrekpunt en postuleer dat organisasies, ten spyte daarvan dat hulle die ooglopende beginsels van projekbestuur bemeester, negatiewe omstandighede in hul organisasie-kultuur mag koester wat nie met die onderliggende bestuursfilosofieë van suksesvolle projekbestuursgedrag kan vereenselwig nie. Die verwagte verwantskap tussen organisasie-kultuur en projekbestuur word in besonder verbind met organisasies wat op ‘n matriksbasis funksioneer. In so ‘n omgewing is daar, as gevolg van die voortdurende interaksie tussen die vertikaalgerigte (funksioneel gespesialiseerde) en horisontaalgerigte (trans-funksionele) bestuur van werk, ‘n sterk verwagte interafhanklikheid tussen projekbestuur en organisasie-kultuur. Die doel van die studie was om: (a) by wyse van ‘n omvattende literatuurstudie ‘n raamwerk van die dimensies van organisasie-kultuur wat ‘n waarskynlike impak op projekbestuur behoort te hê, te ontwikkel; en om (b) deur empiriese ondersoek, bevestiging vir die verwagte verwantskap tussen organisasie-kultuur en projekbestuur te vind. Die studie het ‘n multi-dimensionele perspektief, wat ook die evaluering van verskillende belanghebbendes insluit, as maatstaf vir die effektiwiteit van projekbestuur in die empiriese ondersoek, ontwikkel. Die navorsing het ‘n statisties beduidende korrelasie tussen die gepostuleerde raamwerk van organisasie-kultuur en projekbestuurs-effektiwiteit bevind. Hierdie bevinding lewer sterk ondersteuning vir die afleiding dat organisasie-kultuur en projekbestuur interverwant is en dat organisasie-kultuur as ‘n onderliggende veranderlike in berekening gebring moet word by die vestiging van ‘n projekbestuursvermoë in ‘n organisasie. Die navorsing het verder bevind dat elkeen van die twaalf dimensies van die kultuurkonstruk individueel statisties beduidend met projekbestuurseffektiwiteit korreleer. Hiermee het die studie dan ook substansieel gevorder na die skep van ‘n raamwerk wat die graad van ondersteuning van ‘n organisasie se kultuur ten opsigte van projekbestuur kan assesseer. Hierdie behoort ‘n belangrike stuk gereedskap te wees vir organisasies wat met probleme in projekbestuur worstel asook vir organisasies wat projekbestuur as ‘n organisasie-vermoë wil vestig.

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