International Journal of Project Management 32 (2014) 1423 – 1431 www.elsevier.com/locate/ijproman Knowledge formation and learning in the management of projects: A problem solving perspective
Terence Ahern ⁎, Brian Leavy, P.J. Byrne
Dublin City University Business School, Dublin City University, Ireland
Received 8 July 2013; received in revised form 6 February 2014; accepted 13 February 2014
Available online 15 March 2014
In contrast to traditional projects, which are assumed to be fully speciﬁed and then executed with little learning anticipated, complex projects cannot be fully speciﬁed at the outset and require continuous learning over their life cycles. Nevertheless, the key role of knowledge formation and learning in managing complex projects is under-developed for expanding project capability boundaries to include knowledge uncertainty and indeterminacy. Drawing inspiration from Karl Weick 's enactivist ideas and an empirical study of two organizations that developed project capability for complex projects, the paper develops an integrated view of projects and project management that is grounded in problem solving learning and organizing. More speciﬁcally, a project is reconceptualized as ‘a mode of organizing to accomplish a temporary undertaking’ with intrinsic learning. This perspective views complex projects under knowledge uncertainty as learning organizations, with implications for project management theory and practice.
© 2014 Elsevier Ltd. APM and IPMA. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Project management; Complex problem solving; Knowledge formation; Modes of organizing and learning (MOL); Practice
In traditional project research, even when complex projects cannot be fully specified and planned in advance, such as major infrastructure projects, normative expectations require the appearance of planning and control for these projects through
References: Ahern, T., Leavy, B., Byrne, P.J., 2014. Complex project management as complex problem solving: a distributed knowledge management perspective Ahern, T., 2013. The Development Of Project Management Capability In Complex Organisational Settings: Towards A Knowledge-Based View. APM, 2012. APM Body Of Knowledge, sixth ed. Association for Project Management, Princes Risborough, Bucks., UK (Orig Argyris, C., 1977. Double loop learning in organizations. Harv. Bus. Rev. 55 (5), 115–125. Baccarini, D., 1996. The concept of project complexity—a review. Int. J. Proj. Bakker, R.M., 2010. Taking stock of temporary organizational forms: a systematic review and research agenda Berggren, C., Söderlund, J., 2008. Rethinking project management education: social twists and knowledge co-production Berggren, C., Järkvik, J., Söderlund, J., 2008. Lagomizing, organic integration, and systems emergency wards: innovative practices in managing complex Blomquist, T., Hällgren, M., Nilsson, A., Söderholm, A., 2010. Project-aspractice: in search of project management research that matters. Proj. Bourdieu, P., 2013. Outline Of A Theory Of Practice. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK (Orig Brady, T., Hobday, M., 2011. Projects and innovation: innovation and projects. Brady, T., Söderlund, J., 2008. Projects in innovation, innovation in projects selected papers from the IRNOP VIII conference (editorial) Bragd, A., 2002. Knowing Management: An Ethnographic Study of Tinkering With a New Car Bredillet, C.N., 2008. Exploring research in project management—nine schools of project management research Bresnen, M., Marshall, N., 2000. Partnering in construction: a critical review of issues, problems and dilemmas Brown, J.S., Duguid, P., 1991. Organizational learning and communities-ofpractice: toward a unified view of working, learning, and innovation. Organ. Cattani, G., Ferriani, S., Frederiksen, L., Täube, F., 2011. Project-based organizing and strategic management Chia, R., 2013. Paradigms and perspectives in organizational project management research: implications for knowledge creation Cicmil, S., Hodgson, D., 2006. Making projects critical: an introduction. In: Hodgson, D., Cicmil, S Cleden, D., 2009. Managing Project Uncertainty. Gower, Farnham, UK. Cleland, D.I., King, W.R., 1983. Systems Analysis And Project Management. Cook, S.D.N., Brown, J.S., 1999. Bridging epistemologies: the generative dance between organizational knowledge and organizational knowing. Czarniawska-Joerges, B., 1992. Exploring Complex Organizations: A Cultural Perspective Davies, A., Hobday, M., 2005. The Business of Projects: Managing Innovation in Complex Products and Systems Drouin, N., Müller, R., Sankaran, S. (Eds.), 2013. Novel Approaches to Organizational Project Management Research: Translational and Transformational Enberg, C., Lindkvist, L., Tell, F., 2006. Exploring the dynamics of knowledge integration: acting and interacting in project teams Enberg, C., Lindkvist, L., Tell, F., 2010. Knowledge integration at the edge of technology: on teamwork and complexity in new turbine development Engwall, M., 1998. The project concept(s): on the unit of analysis in the study of project management Engwall, M., 2002. The futile dream of the perfect goal. In: Sahlin-Andersson, K., Söderholm, A Engwall, M., 2003. No project is an island: linking projects to history and context Engwall, M., Steinthórsson, R.S., Söderholm, A., 2003. Temporary organizing—a Viking approach to project management research Flyvbjerg, B., Bruzelius, N., Rothengatter, W., 2003. Megaprojects and Risk: An Anatomy of Ambition Gherardi, S., 2006. Organizational Knowledge: The Texture of Workplace Learning Giddens, A., 2007. The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration Hällgren, M., Wilson, T.L., 2008. The nature and management of crises in construction projects: projects-as-practice observations Hayek, F.A., 1945. The use of knowledge in society. Am. Econ. Rev. 35 (4), 519–530. Hedlund, G., 1994. A model of knowledge management and the N-form corporation Ivory, C., Alderman, N., McLoughlin, I., Vaughan, R., 2006. Sense-making as a process within complex projects