Project management approaches for dynamic environments

Topics: Project management, Management, Control theory Pages: 34 (7297 words) Published: October 13, 2013
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International Journal of Project Management 27 (2009) 355–364

Project management approaches for dynamic environments
Simon Collyer a,*, Clive M.J. Warren b

School of Geography, Planning and Architecture, The University of Queensland, Australia b
UQ Business School, The University of Queensland, Australia
Received 9 July 2007; received in revised form 19 April 2008; accepted 22 April 2008

This paper investigates the properties of projects conducted in rapidly changing environments. These projects are challenged by the rapid introduction of new unknowns as they progress. One might say they are more akin to stacking worms than stacking bricks. The difficulties posed by these projects are identified and the literature is reviewed for suitable approaches. Ó 2008 Elsevier Ltd and IPMA. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Project management; Dynamic

1. Introduction
This paper sets out to investigate the nature of projects
conducted in fast changing environments. Examples and
theory are used to illustrate the nature and challenges of
this category. Suitable management approaches are identified under the following headings: Planning, Experimentation, Lifecycle, Controls, Culture, Communication, and Leadership style.
2. The dynamic project category
The paper closes with recommendations for further
research. In this paper, control is taken to mean the mechanisms through which resources are managed to achieve objectives [1], and is different to the PMBOK ‘technique’ [2] which is strictly focused on bringing activities in line with a plan [3]. The term dynamic is taken to mean characterised by constant change [4]. In the project management context dynamism is taken to be a dimension of a project

that represents the extent to which a project is influenced by changes in the environment in which it is conducted.
Corresponding author. Address: ITS Project Office, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD 4072, Australia. Tel.: +61 7 33654935; fax: +61 401 991111.
E-mail address: (S. Collyer).

0263-7863/$36.00 Ó 2008 Elsevier Ltd and IPMA. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.ijproman.2008.04.004

This paper argues that this is a non-binary dimension that
applies in varying degrees to all projects, so strictly any
given project is neither ‘dynamic’ nor ‘not dynamic’. All projects have some degree of dynamism, so the dimension
is not dichotomic. Therefore, the ideas in this paper may be applied in varying degrees to any project as deemed appropriate. For the sake of simplicity though, for the remainder of this paper, a dynamic project is taken to be one that is

necessarily subject to higher than normal levels of change
due to the environment in which it is conducted.
The business environment is changing at an increasing
pace [5–7]. Rothwell and Zegveld [8] went so far as to say we are in the midst of a technology explosion. They argued
that 90% of our technical knowledge has been generated in
the last 55 years, and that technical knowledge will continue to increase exponentially. Perrino and Tipping [9] reported
‘‘the pace of technology is accelerating, raising the stakes and risks for managing innovation, and requiring early
warning and shorter response time”. Change, in all forms
of technology and business processes, can be regarded as
increasingly pervasive and providing challenges even where
high technology is not a core business, such as in mining
[10]. Consider how the Australian Submarine project was
challenged by developments in the IT industry between
the 1980s design phase, and sea trials decades later [7].
This paper will now investigate dynamic projects from a
theoretical point of view. Gray and Larson [11] argued that


S. Collyer, C.M.J. Warren / International Journal of Project Management 27 (2009) 355–364

projects conducted in highly uncertain environments are a
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